"With the help of more than 750 volunteers, Meals on Wheels Spokane serves 500 meals a day and more than 116,000 meals each year. Seeing statistics like that on paper is one thing, but it was through the eyes of the seniors we serve that it finally dawned on me how crucial these services are. "
I felt surprisingly exhilarated as I neared Meals on Wheels Spokane off of 2nd Avenue one fall morning last month. Today was the day; today I was going on my first home delivery.
The rain of the colder months had not yet set in, so before entering the building to meet the volunteer who'd be taking me on the trip, I stopped for a moment and took a deep breath. The morning sun was welcoming, barely peaking through the clouds. It was only 10 a.m., but I could already see the building bustling with seniors eager to get their first meal of the day, eager to have a place, through the front tinted windows. It was comforting being there, though I had only worked with MOW Spokane for a little more than a month.
It would be a lie to say I wasn't nervous to go on my first home delivery; showing up on a neighbor's doorstep with prepared food was a new experience for me. How would our seniors take meeting a new person without warning? What if they didn't like the food we brought them?
I gathered my thoughts and moved through the side doors to await Mike, the volunteer who'd be leading me on the day's delivery. A few minute later, he arrived with a smile from ear to ear. After introductions and firm, welcoming hand shake, we loaded up the day's meals and were off.
Meals on Wheels Spokane, previously known as Mid City Senior Center, has provided nutritional meals to seniors in need since 1967. Almost 50 years later, it's transformed into a pulse and lifeline as a senior center and in offering deliveries to homebound seniors. After meeting seven seniors on that first delivery, MOW Spokane's centrality in the lives of seniors was notedly vivid.
The first two seniors seemed taken aback by my presence, but the gleam in their eyes showed a sort of gratitude that I'll never forget. Mike unzipped the bag of meals—still steaming—and introduced me in a chipper voice.
"This is Kiki," he said with a signature smile that almost never seemed to leave his face. "She's with our marketing department, and this is her first delivery."
"I channeled the confidence that Mike displayed, extremely grateful to have a volunteer so welcoming by my side, and to shake each senior's hand. The interactions maybe last a few minutes. But as we left each doorstop, I felt a part of me changing--no, expanding--upon reflection of the greetings. They expected us, in fact, they seemed to count on us, to offer their first meal of the day.
One client, a Vietnam veteran named Jack, particularly stands out in my mind. Jack has received MOW Spokane services for 6 months. MOW Spokane services have become vital for Jack, who became disabled after 23 years in the army.
"[Meals on Wheels Spokane] has helped me very well," Jack said while rocking in his armchair. "When we had that blackout, my stuff was out for eight days. They came out here every day—weekend, holidays. They even brought me batteries so I had it for my little radio. They were very nice."
I had never considered what happened to those homebound individuals during power outages.
Jack told us he looks forward to us coming each week, because he's "not the best cook in the world." He laughed.
As we wrapped up the conversation to head to the next stop, Jack's story struck me. Here was a man who fought for our country, but who was fighting for him? I turned my gaze toward Mike as we got in the car and started moving to the next senior: Volunteers like him and services like those provided by Meals and Wheels Spokane are more essential than I had ever realized before.
I carried this thought with me throughout the rest of the trip, grateful to be apart of something larger than myself. Any nerves I had at the beginning were quickly dissuaded by the pure appreciation each senior demonstrated. With the help of more than 750 volunteers, Meals on Wheels Spokane serves 500 meals a day and more than 116,000 meals each year. Seeing statistics like that on paper is one thing, but it was through the eyes of the seniors we serve that it finally dawned on me how crucial these services are.