Photo by Sue Suchyta
William McKenzie (left) of Dorchester Apartments in Dearborn, a 19-year recipient of Meals on Wheels, receives food from volunteer James Mackey.
By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – For 15 years, Meals on Wheels volunteers have provided a lifeline of weekday meals to Gerald and Sarah Kriner of Robertson Street.
Meals on Wheels is a locally administered program that provides a weekday meal to housebound people — most elderly — who cannot purchase or prepare their own meals.
Volunteers, from teens to able-bodied seniors, use their own vehicles to deliver meals. Most recipients receive help based on medical need without the need to prove financial hardship.
Kriner, who cares for his wife at home and is unable to drive, said he appreciates the weekday meal deliveries and safety check from the volunteers. He noticed that recently some of the volunteers have had to work more hours to meet demand.
“They need volunteers,” Kriner said. “I see some of them doubling up, so it’s rough on everybody.”
Lisa Robinson, site manager at Kennedy Plaza, a City of Dearborn senior citizen apartment high rise at 5111 Bingham, said Meals on Wheels is important because it serves homebound seniors a balanced meal Monday through Friday, which helps keep them out of the hospital and keeps their nutrition balanced, especially for seniors needing diabetic or low sodium meals.
Wayne County Senior Citizen Services in Westland oversees the programs that provide home-delivered meals, liquid nutrition and site-based meal services for eligible seniors 60 and older in 30 communities in western Wayne County and Downriver. When applicants become eligible for services, WCSCS forwards the information to local site providers.
For more information about program eligibility, call the Wayne County Senior Citizen Nutrition Program at 734-727-7357 or 800-851-1454.
Robinson said Meals on Wheels is a federal program that relies heavily on private funding, and many seniors rely on it.
“Sometimes this is the only meal that they get per day,” Robinson said. “So this is very important for them to receive their meals, and very important for people to come out and volunteer to get the meals to them.”
She said the program needs more volunteers who have vehicles who can get meals to the homebound one day a week. All potential volunteers must pass a background check.
Robinson said most volunteers do not submit their vehicle mileage for fuel cost reimbursement, but it is available on a monthly basis for volunteers who submit a mileage log and other documentation.
She said they also need volunteers on site to help prepare and package 65 to 70 meals a day.
Robinson said the need for Meals on Wheels is growing, and they need more volunteer help.
To volunteer in east Dearborn at Kennedy Plaza, call Robinson at 313-581-1039. To volunteer elsewhere in western Wayne County and Downriver, call the Wayne County Senior Citizen Nutrition Program volunteer line at 734-727-7357 or 800-851-1455.
Willa Johnson, who lives at Kennedy Plaza, volunteers preparing and packaging meals in the building’s kitchen, and she delivers meals to several apartment-bound residents at Kennedy. Her recipients include an amputee and a cancer patient who cannot come downstairs to eat with other residents.
“It makes me feel like I am doing something important,” Johnson said. “It is important to feed our seniors. One day I may be homebound, unable to get out. I do not have a large family and my daughter lives in Georgia. I know that for many of the seniors their relatives are not close to them.”
She said the daily visit from the volunteers is as important as the meal. If a recipient appears incoherent, appears in the same clothes or is not tending to their basic hygiene needs, they notify the site manager, who can have someone from WCSCS check on the person.
If a senior does not answer the door, their emergency contact will called. If they are not available to check on the senior, local police will do a well-person drive-by check.
Volunteer James Mackey of Dearborn Heights volunteered with the program five years ago through the Rotary Club of Dearborn.
“I think it is important to give back to the community,” Mackey said, “and I like helping people.”
He said he delivers to six to 14 people, in individual residences, on a route any given day. At some residences, he delivers to two people.
One of his clients, William McKenzie of Dorchester Apartments, said he appreciates the delivered meals because he had a colostomy, and cannot get out much.
Recipient Anton Pech, of Charles Street, wears a landline extension phone in a pouch around his neck so he can easily call friends when he needs help. He said he appreciates Meals on Wheels because at age 94, it is difficult for him to cook for himself, especially with a sore back.
Mary Kalin, of Carlton Street, has received meal deliveries for three months. She said she has trouble walking, and with the meal deliveries, she does not have to cook for herself. She also likes the daily contact with a volunteer.
James Damon, of Fairlane East, has been receiving meals for about a year. He said he cannot drive very much, and while someone prepares his breakfast for him, and he has a supply of frozen dinners from the grocery store, the delivered meals are very handy.
He said he likes the daily contact with the volunteers.
Johnson said she enjoys the smiles and appreciation she receives when delivering meals.
“It’s like ‘pay it forward,’” Johnson said. “Help someone now, because you never know when you are going to need help.”