Meals On Wheels program provides food, contact

Posted: Wednesday, March 05, 2003

A man we'll call Joe recently called the senior center requesting information about the Meals On Wheels program. Joe is the primary caregiver for his 91-year-old mother and he works full time. His mother has difficulty seeing well enough to cook and fears starting a fire by leaving the stove on. What can he do? He can't quit his job or come home at lunchtime to prepare a meal for his mom.

Meals On Wheels is the solution to Joe's problem. Each weekday, a volunteer delivers a hot, complete lunch to his mother. In addition, the delivery volunteer offers a daily safety check, a friendly smile, social contact and connections to other needed services.

Home-delivered meals, commonly known as "Meals On Wheels," are available to persons older than 60 who are homebound due to illness or disability and who are unable to come to the senior center for lunch. Meal recipients are encouraged to contribute toward the cost of each meal, although no one is denied service if they cannot pay.

The Meals On Wheels program serves 57 persons who live throughout the City and Borough of Juneau. Some of these people are temporarily eligible, such as those recovering from injuries or surgery, while others are served by the program for several years. The nutritious meals, which meet one-third the recommended dietary allowance, speed recovery from surgery or illness and promote good health.

Meals On Wheels is a part of Juneau's Senior Nutrition Program, operated by Southeast Senior Services. The program is made possible by a grant from the Alaska Commission on Aging, the Medicaid Waiver program, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and donations from community organizations. Each year, the Alaska Department of Law employees and Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF) employees donate generously to continue the service five days a week. Over the past eight years, DOTPF employees have given nearly $11,000 to the program. Some employees even serve as delivery volunteers.

Volunteers are the backbone of Juneau's Meals On Wheels service. Each weekday, the senior center kitchen staff prepares and packages the meals which the delivery volunteers pick up between 11 and 11:30 a.m. The average time each volunteer gives per week is just one hour. There are 38 regular volunteers who deliver meals one day a week on one of six routes and 34 substitute deliverers who fill in when needed. The volunteers come to know the meal clients and find the experience to be very rewarding. Some volunteers, such as Dean Rasmussen, have been with the program for more than 10 years.

Meals On Wheels is always seeking caring anddependable volunteers. Current delivery volunteers include government employees, university students, retirees, a doctor, an attorney and stay-at-home moms who bring their children along. Some routes are covered by "teams" made up of office co-workers or members of a church, where the individuals take turns covering the route. "There is a lot of variety in how volunteers can be scheduled," said Jeanne Rataj, volunteer coordinator. "We can work around your schedule and fit the days you are available."

To learn more about becoming a volunteer, call Jeanne at 463-6179.

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