Council on Aging is celebrating Ed Deely, a Meals on Wheels Volunteer Driver for over 16 years.
Deely has been delivering Meals on Wheels the longest of all of our volunteers, and he even brought in another volunteer, Tom Moody who has only one less year of service under his belt. These men, and others like them, use their own car, their own gas, their own precious time. These volunteers are everyday heroes when they deliver Meals on Wheels as COA volunteers. “It doesn’t take a heck of a lot of time, 2 hours at most. It’s been nice. I’ve enjoyed it,” says Ed with a smile.
In 1994 Ed and Barbara moved up here from Broward County in south Florida when he retired from working for the phone company AT&T. After camping at Fort Clinch for many years, they loved Fernandina Beach and made it their new home. When they saw an article in the local newspaper asking for volunteers they gave COA a call, agreeing to be a volunteer driver on a part time basis. Ed is still at it. He hasn’t stopped in all these years. Sometimes Barbara would join him on the deliveries, bringing a little bud vase with a bloom on holidays.
Ed says, “It was right down my alley. A Great job. A feel good job. A Labor of Love. Some want to talk when you deliver, others don’t. They are all very receptive to the people who come in and serve them a hot meal! We check on them; we kind of know their health issues after a while of driving, so we make sure they are doing OK, very simple. All are easy to get along with and very glad to see us as their Meals on Wheels driver. It’s something I really like to do.”
Meals on Wheels is more than just the lunch or dinner, included with every meal is a serving of love for their fellow man and a big smile. Volunteers deliver the meals with a big helping of caring and companionship, too. A high point in an otherwise lonely day for many of the COA clients who are living alone, “The shut ins” who are unable to come to either Senior Center to share a meal.
Ed says that he likes to serve these folks in honor of his mother and father who have passed away. “And we’re not getting any younger either,” he says with a wink, “It’s just something I like to do, serving somebody that is older and shut in. Helping somebody out, another human being, whose health is not that good. Adding to their quality of life is a feel good thing. Give a meal and go on my merry way to the next one. I’m a Monday guy now, was a Tuesday guy for years, and it all works out. It does me as much good as the guy receiving it. And I like doing it.”
Ed Deely was the winner of the 2010 Elsie Harper Volunteer of the Year Award: Volunteering with Seniors from The City of Fernandina Beach/Nassau County Volunteer Center, presented this past spring. Criteria used in the selection included “grass roots” work on a particular project; focus on “people to people” volunteer work; and the length of the volunteer’s commitment, measured in hours and sometimes years, in Ed’s case it’s over 16 years and counting.
Last year all of COA’s dedicated Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers used their own cars and their own gas to bring 43,734 meals (42,384 meals were delivered in 2009) who otherwise would not have had a hot meal. Their routes also include delivering frozen prepackaged meals in batches of 5 or 7 and sometimes 10 or 14 meals to be microwaved by an In-Home worker and served on another day. If requested, they also bring a zip lock bag of dog chow or cat food for the seniors who have pets. One home even gets a bag of bird seed so the senior doesn’t feel obligated to share their “people food.” This partnership with Meals on Wheels 4 pets has been a blessing, providing nutrition for the pets of seniors. Meals on Wheels drivers also deliver to Soup Train recipient, for seniors unable to be served yet by Meals on Wheels. Feeding these “wait listers” through Soup Train is a partnership COA has with Barnabus and Coalition for the Homeless. (Soup Train feeds seniors a home-made soup twice a week while they wait for funds to become available for the Meals on Wheels program.)
Debbie Davis, Nutrition Supervisor at COA says, “I can call Ed up if I need him and he always comes. He has delivered hot meals every day of the week at one time or another. Since I had knee surgery I can’t fill in myself these days, but I will again when my knee gets better. I like to monitor those routes occasionally, so I know my clients and the routes the volunteers drive.” The routes vary as to the number of stops, from 8 or 9 to sometimes 15 or 20. Really, all my drivers are so giving—they all help me out whenever I ask.”
Through grants, and the generosity of local donors who give “matching funds”, the COA has been able to move some Soup Train folks into the MOW program, enabling COA to serve a new group of Soup Train recipients. The 2010 MOW “wait list” was huge, but some moved, others went to nursing homes, and we found the funds to serve the rest. COA has now cleared that original 2010 waiting list. But there are once again more to feed in 2011, and the waiting list is growing again.
The Council on Aging of Nassau wants to meet the needs of these new seniors for their nutrition with low sodium, diabetes friendly meals. These meals are simple foods geared toward all diets. They have no fancy seasoning, no salt. Other frozen meals from the grocery stores have seasonings and additives that some people cannot handle. The COA uses a nationwide company, whose main office is in St. Petersburg, to procure the meals most cost effectively. They are delivered frozen into a large walk in freezer at both COA locations. The hot meals come out of the Fernandina Beach location only (not Hilliard) and are warmed by staff and quickly delivered by volunteers.
These volunteers get no funding from COA, no gas money, no car allowance, no minimum wage reimbursement, just hugs and smiles and big “Thank yous!”
Ed shared this story as the one that had the greatest impact for him, “One time I could see from the doorway that a lady looked like she had passed out and I called 911 on my cell, this was about 10 years ago, she was unconscious, but she survived. I waited until the rescue got there. They took her and she did just fine, that was the only emergency I had and I’ve been driving a long time.” We are so grateful that Ed came to her when he did, or the outcome could have been much different.
If you would like to volunteer to be a Meals on Wheels driver call 261-0701 and ask to speak to Debbie Davis at extension 115. If you want to help contribute toward the Meals on Wheels program, or any of the other programs, please visit our website www.coanassau.com/donate or drop your check in the mail to COA, 1367 S. 18th Street, Fernandina Beach, 32034, or in person, across the street from Baptist Hospital Nassau. We’re also beginning a fund raising campaign to build a new building with the kitchen capabilities we’ll need to continue to serve the growing senior population, an updated Adult Day Healthcare area to serve our memory impaired clients, and more room to have programs for all interests. We welcome your partnership as we continue to serve the citizens of Nassau County.