- Written by Carol Foote, Development Assistant
- Published: 05 April 2018
Whether a Meals on Wheels driver has been with LifePath for two weeks or 12 years, they share a deep commitment to caring for elders. If we take a closer look at their days, we see that this volunteer assignment has a way of bringing out the best that each person has to offer.
Helen Uguccioni, a retired teacher, just started on her Meals on Wheels driver odyssey this past winter. Her brother is a Meals on Wheels driver in Maine, and she likes that volunteering in this way “pays it forward.” Starting at the Meals on Wheels kitchen in Erving, Helen picks up a number of insulated thermal bags and coolers and travels to a rendezvous point in Greenfield where the meals are handed off. She then completes her own route through town. “I'm having a good experience doing it,” she says. Her only complaint has been the winter conditions, which, thanks to crampons (spikes fixed to a boot for walking on ice) provided at a discount to LifePath from Trail Head in Orange, are much more manageable. “One day that it was really icy, I wore my crampons – I felt like Superwoman!” Ice, pets, potholes, and more test the courage of our dedicated drivers.
Doug Riddell, who drives 60 miles through Shutesbury, Leverett, Wendell, and New Salem, reminds himself as he gets in the car, “Yes, I've got to plug it in.” He’s talking about the red warming bags that utilize the car’s outlet to be sure his consumers get the “hot meal” as advertised. “Cold bags” hold milk, fruit, bread, and desserts. Other details that are part of a driver’s everyday heroics are the timing of meal pick-ups, meeting at rendezvous locations, and returning supplies; navigating the route; spending enough (but not too much) quality time with consumers; and reporting issues or concerns.
Alan Coutinho, who has driven for 12 years in the Hilltowns, shares his own on-route experiences of encountering unexpected situations. As a Meals on Wheels driver he is trained in what to do if faced with, for example, an elder who has fallen and needs emergency assistance from 911. Alan considers many of his consumers to be like family. As these kinships develop, Alan feels privileged to be invited to celebrate birthdays and attend memorial or graveside services.
The drivers are the heart of the Meals on Wheels program. Without them, the food would go nowhere and the human element that offers social therapy would be lost. Their contribution to the Meals on Wheels program is invaluable, even as we can consider that over the course of a year, our 55 drivers cover 140,000 miles within 30 towns in Franklin County and the North Quabbin regions, delivering 127,619 meals to 1,083 homebound clients. We offer our gratitude for the many miles, hours of lugging, and acts of compassion offered by our drivers.