Throughout 2018, Alamo City Moms Blog will be spotlighting one local nonprofit each month as part of its ACMB Cares campaign. Our goal is to familiarize readers with nonprofit organizations that are making an impact in San Antonio through their connection with moms and/or children. This month, we are featuring Meals on Wheels San Antonio.
The smallest volunteers get the biggest smiles.
Seniors receiving Meals on Wheels often have more of a twinkle in their eyes and cheer in their hellos when they know a child is knocking.
I know because I’ve seen it firsthand.
As Meals on Wheels San Antonio‘s Communications and Marketing Director, I learn about the “how” of delivering nutritious meals—and really, so much more—to 3,500 San Antonio seniors every single day. Let’s just say it’s pretty amazing.
The “who” making it happen on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, is even more impressive. From the kitchen staff turning ovens on at 4:30 A.M., to everyone knocking on doors at the combined rate of 19 doors a minute in the middle of the day. Dedicated staff, donors, and 150+ daily delivery volunteers ensure San Antonio and Bexar County seniors receive nutritious meals, safety checks, and friendly visits every Monday through Friday around the noon hour.
Meals on Wheels San Antonio and Grace Place Alzheimer’s Centers began under the umbrella of Christian Senior Services, a 501 (c)(3). Since 1977, these organizations have served senior citizens of Bexar County. Combined, it is one of Bexar County’s largest nonprofit organizations, providing services to nourish lives, enable independence, and care for our community’s seniors.
The organization works to make volunteering as family friendly as possible and offers a lot of opportunities for families to work together for the community. Volunteers often say delivering meals is the best and most rewarding hour of the day.
Heather Jones started delivering Meals on Wheels with her son when he was eight months old. Today, almost a year-and-a-half later, he’s two, and Heather has delivering down to a science, with a system and tips I found helpful!
She started volunteering with her son to have something regular to do outside of the house on a weekly basis. Meals on Wheels came to mind because she learned about food accessibility through friends in college and the importance of giving people access to healthy food.
“It’s all about getting people food,” Heather said. “Plus, it’s easy to do, everyone was really cool about [my son] coming along, and they worked with me to have a delivery route at an apartment complex where I wouldn’t have to constantly get him in and out of the car.”
Her husband enthusiastically supported the idea because he grew up delivering Meals on Wheels with his mom.
Like many kids his age, Heather’s son likes being a helper. I know my two-year-old daughter is always ready to throw something—anything!—in the trash or help “sweep” in the kitchen.
Heather quickly identified opportunities to improve the experience, especially when it came time to actually give the meal to a senior. Now she always carries several snacks with her, so her son knows he’ll also get something to eat. The hardest item for him to give away is applesauce. I know if I were two, I’d feel the same way.
As any experience goes with a toddler asserting independence, Heather said they’ve had their share of challenges, but nothing that couldn’t be solved with a little preparation and planning the night before volunteering.
“Most seniors are really big fans and try to get him to smile,” Heather laughed. “If he isn’t with me, then that’s the first thing they ask about.”
Bryn Ritchey, mother of five children, ages 8, 5, 3, 2, and 7 months, has volunteered her whole life. It’s no wonder with awesome role models like her grandparents, who delivered Meals on Wheels when they retired!
Not all five children are along for every delivery, but even when they are, the main challenge is everyone wanting to help with the same tasks! The fun often continues back at home when they play “Meals on the Bus” and pretend to deliver meals with their toys. (Now is when you say, “Awwwww!”)
Last September, Bryn and her children started delivering meals in their own neighborhood, and loved getting to know their senior neighbors. They’ve since moved, but still deliver to their old neighborhood and look forward to seeing their friends on a weekly basis. Her family also delivered in their new neighborhood and is enjoying the ability to get to know new neighbors better!
To any parent considering delivering Meals on Wheels with their own children Heather says to give your child the benefit of the doubt. They might surprise you. Plus, the more you volunteer, the more a child gets used to a routine and understands what you two are doing together.
This isn’t to say there’s never been something that went wrong, but Heather said, “It’s never as bad as I thought it would be when it has happened.”
Getting everyone out of the house can take some time, Bryn said with a smile; “but,” she added, “it’s super rewarding for the kids. It’s easy to do, they have fun, and everyone loves them.”
Mom of two Erica Sloan agrees, “In only a short time my daughters have learned such valuable lessons in caring for other people, and it really makes my heart smile [that] they are allowed to volunteer with Meals on Wheels. There are not many opportunities in San Antonio for kids to volunteer in a meaningful way that I’ve found.”
- Have patience and give yourself time for trial and error. It might take a couple of weeks before you get into your groove.
- It never hurts to ask the Community Engagement Coordinators if they can work with you for the delivery route.
- If delivering to an apartment complex, pre-pack meals at your destination into individual pre-numbered plastic shopping bags to make things easier.
- Have snacks—and more snacks—ready for your child.
- Bring everything you might need and pack it all the night before: stroller, carrier, extra snacks.
Whether or not you volunteer with Meals on Wheels you now know more about some moms and the number one secret to volunteering success: snacks. I personally think that’s the secret to mom success in general.
All kidding aside, consider expanding your family by becoming part of the Meals on Wheels family. March offers a lot of opportunities, with kids on Spring Break and the celebration of March for Meals, which commemorates the signing of the Older Americans Act into law and establishing national nutrition programs for seniors.
There are opportunities for almost every day of the week including weekends. Many volunteers deliver pet food to seniors’ homes as part of the AniMeals program. Learn more about all volunteer opportunities at mowsatx.org, or by talking to someone on the Community Engagement Team at (210) 735-5115.