By CHRIS WILSON
AMORY – A meat patty in gravy, boiled cabbage, stewed tomatoes and a piece of cornbread.
It may not sound like much to some of us. But for those 19 shut-ins who had this meal delivered to their door one Wednesday recently, it meant the world.
For some of those who are on the Meals on Wheels program in Amory, it might have meant the only balanced meal they had that day. For others, it might have meant the volunteers, who carried the meal to them, were the only personal contact they had that day. For others, it means independence and enables them to still live in their own homes instead of a nursing home or assisted care facility.
Since the early 1970s, Amory's Meals on Wheels program has been taking hot meals to the elderly and/or shut-ins three days a week. The program was established by the Amory Ministerial Association, which saw the need to care for the shut-ins' nutritional needs. The program only serves about 19 people, but program chairperson Melissa Durrett says it can accommodate about 40.
Anyone can receive the meals who is in need of the service, either temporarily due to illness or confinement of some nature, or permanently.
A screening committee looks at requests and determines whether the person meets the program's guidelines. If they do, they are added to one of the routes. A 12-member board of directors oversees the program.
The meals are prepared by a Houston company, which is contracted to deliver them to the West Amory Community Center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays where volunteer coordinators dish it into covered containers. Two of the program's recent coordinators were Mary and Tommy Morgan.Mary has been a volunteer for 20 years.
Meals put together
Besides the main dish, a sack also is assembled with milk, butter, bread and fruit or dessert. Some sacks have a big red “D” on them, indicating they are specially made for those who are diabetic. Then the items are placed into coolers with a list attached indicating where they are to be delivered. Once the food was on its way to the recipients, the Morgans scrub the food pans to complete their duties at the community center.
Different local clubs and churches take turns coordinating and delivering the meals, most taking a week at a time.
The Meals on Wheels program isn't advertised, but churches and doctors are aware of it and often make referrals. Anyone is welcome to apply, they don't have to be referred, Durrett points out. The program serves people who live in the city limits and within 1 mile of the city. While a lot of recent requests have come frompersons living in the county, Durrett said the program has not expanded out because of the distance involved and because the delivery volunteers aren't as familiar with the county roads.
The program is totally volunteer run and relies on financial help from the United Way of Greater Monroe County,individual contributors and Sunday School classes. “The United Way's funding allows us to not have to get out and solicit money,” Durrett said.
On Sept. 8, as part of the United Way's “United Care Days,” volunteers from area businesses and industries spent the morning helping with Meals on Wheels. Those on the routes got a bonus that day, since the United Way volunteers made them fresh flower bouquets and wrote them notes telling the recipients that they were being thought of in a special way that day. Many showed surprise when more than a half dozen people knocked at their doors bearing smiles, their meal and flowers.
Durrett said delivering meals to people is a humbling experience. “They are so appreciative,” she said. “They hunger for a visit as much as for the meal.”