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Meals on Wheels desperate for volunteers

Mary Hinds maryhinds@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 9:59 PM

A lot of people spout words about respecting our elders, but there are seniors right here in Wilson County who need more than respect - they need a hot meal.

Mid-Cumberland Meals on Wheels and Senior Dining Program continues to seek volunteer drivers to deliver noon meals to those 60 and over in the Lebanon and Mt Juliet areas.

Maggie Brazil heads up the Lebanon program and feels few people realize just how many local seniors are doing without.

"In Tennessee, the senior hunger rate is about 25 percent," she said. "That's one of the highest rates in the country."

To combat that eye-opening statistic, her agency desperately seeks volunteers to deliver meals to seniors around town. The need is so great Brazil drives routes herself to make sure no one on her list goes hungry.

Brazil said volunteers need to have a valid driver's license and be able to get in and out of vehicles to deliver the meals. Mid-Cumberland also does a background check on all potential volunteers.

"I'm looking for volunteers to who can work from 10-11:30 a.m.," she said, adding the program delivers Monday through Friday, and volunteers can help out as many days as they want. The more the better.

"It's great for stay-at-home moms and retired people," she said. "I was a stay-at-home-mom when I was a volunteer."

Brazil said volunteers can bring their children along.

"We love for people to bring their kids because most of the seniors love kids," she said. "They feed off their energy."

It's a commitment that doesn't take a lot of time, but offers a lot of rewards for everyone involved.

"All deliveries are within the city limits," she said. "Our longest route is 13 miles round trip and takes about an hour to an hour and a half - that includes picking up the meals, delivering them and and returning the coolers. Volunteers usually serve about 8-10 seniors per day."

But volunteers are serving up more than food, they're delivering seniors, many of whom see no one else each day, a chance to see a friendly face.

"This may be the only meal they have each day and they may not see anybody else that day," Brazil said. "I always say we're not just feeding them food, but offering them a little companionship and that is food for the soul as well."

The program also provides an unofficial safety net for recipients who may see no one else each day.

"Once a volunteer has been on a route for a while they know if someone doesn't look well, or if they don't come to the door. Then the volunteer can tell me and I will call their emergency contact numbers to make sure someone checks on them," she said.  

The benefits for seniors and volunteers is a two-way street.

"You get so much from it, they are so sweet to us, you build a relationship with these seniors it's like adopting a bunch of grandmas and grandpas," Brazil said.  

Lebanon seniors who would like to begin receiving meals or volunteers who want to help by delivering them can get started by calling Brazil at 615-449-3488. Mt. Juliet seniors or potential volunteers can call Dawn Cathey at 615-758-2777.

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