Meals on Wheels: A community service

Every day is the most wonderful time of the year
Posted:  Thursday, December 8, 2016 - 8:15am

The Christmas season is “the most wonderful time of the year,” so the refrain goes. The carols, lights and family togetherness stir up the spirit of giving and love. For clients and volunteers of the Boothbay Region Meals on Wheels, the most wonderful time of year is every day, year after year.

Mary Pierce is a board member and volunteer. She manages the calendar and organizes delivery routes. This month, she is also a second-time client receiving services following knee surgeries. Her connection and devotion to the nonprofit started 40 years ago.  “Meals on Wheels allowed my mother to stay in her own home much longer than she would have without them. I was able to help her out when I could, but because I lived so far away, it was impossible to help her as much as she needed. Meals on Wheels was a blessing for her and for our family.”

Norm Pierce, Mary’s husband and business partner of Pierce’s Yacht Services for over 50 years, agreed. “They’ve been a godsend.” He demonstrated a device designed to help people put on a compression stocking. He laughed about how difficult it is helping his wife with both the stocking and the device, but he also said being a caretaker takes a toll. There are numerous trips to occupational and physical therapists, post-op visits with doctors, and the usual responsibilities of daily living.

“The smallest things can take huge amounts of effort. It’s a relief not to have to plan meals, shop for groceries, cook and clean up on top of everything else,” he said. He is as passionate about the community service as his wife is. “Meals on Wheels is essentially a volunteer-run social service. They provide two of the most basic human needs, delicious and nutritious food, and social contact.”

Mary Donnelly, a newly recruited volunteer, echoed the Pierces’ emphasis on the importance of social contact. “For so many of my clients, I’m the only person they might see for days at a time,” she said. Donnelly delivers meals once a week every other week and her route runs from Boothbay Harbor to Southport. “My route usually takes two hours and most of that time is spent visiting the people I deliver meals to. They look forward to visiting with me more than they look forward to the meal. It’s hard not to become attached. They are what makes it all worthwhile.” Volunteers also function like first responders, a link between the client and their family or medical providers. “If we notice that a client hasn’t eaten their last meal, or if they seem to need any other help, we can help communicate their needs to the appropriate person,” said Donnelly. 

There is a misconception that Meals on Wheels is primarily a service for seniors and for those on low or limited incomes. “We are not about money,” said Mary Pierce. “This is about need. It is about helping people of all ages and all walks of life. It’s about helping them get over the hump of whatever is happening in their lives that makes it challenging to eat a good meal or make connections with people. Life happens, to all of us. Meals on Wheels is here to offer a helping hand. That’s all there is to it.”

Many clients are referred to Meals on Wheels when they are discharged from a health facility. But a referral isn’t necessary to receive services. Many have lost a spouse or are going through a family trauma. “Anyone can receive meals by calling us directly,” Mary Pierce said. Meals are $3.10. Consideration will be given to those who are unable to afford the cost of a meal.

Portions are usually large enough to last for more than one meal, and are delivered in aluminum containers. A standard meal includes milk, salad, dessert, bread, a protein and two vegetables. “They really load those containers up,” said Norm Pierce. “We have had salmon, prime rib, turkey, scallops and haddock.”

The Boothbay Region Meals on Wheels started over 50 years ago at the Congregational Church. Today, it is a collaborative effort among all of the area churches. Forty meals a day are prepared at the St. Andrews Village kitchen and delivered by 25 volunteer drivers during the week. There are two routes, Boothbay Harbor to Southport, and Boothbay Harbor to East Boothbay. Funding is generated by meal costs, private donations and the annual Thanksgiving fundraiser sponsored by McSeagull’s Restaurant.

“It takes a village,” Norm Pierce said. “It’s about the Christmas spirit, 365 days a year.”

The organization would love to see some younger volunteers get involved in order to keep the mission moving forward as the community ages. There is also a current need for substitute drivers. For more information about Meals on Wheels services or volunteering, or to make a monetary contribution, call Pat Wheeler at 633-4370.