Nutritious Meals Delivered Monday through Saturday
The thankfulness brought forth in a smile after a delivery reminds Brock Holman the reason why he signed up to help today – or any day.
Every day, Meals on Wheels of the Iowa Great Lakes provides a balanced, nutritious meal to clients along three routes. Holman is one of many volunteer drivers and often helps with the Meals for Milford route.
“It is the best feeling bringing joy to others through the meals!” Holman shared. “It’s incredible seeing their big smiles when they notice you have arrived with food, and they seem to really respond when you take time to call them by name.”
One of Holman’s best experiences came from a woman he often delivers to on Saturdays. After missing a week and then coming back, she said, “Brock, where have you been?! It’s good to see you again.” Holman told her the same and that he would be back, and she replied, “I sure hope so!”
He added, “The ability to create positive relationships like this is priceless!”
Voluntary Action Center and Meals on Wheels Executive Director Angela Kofoot plays a major role in coordinating these daily meals. With the help of volunteers from nine local churches, area businesses like Grapetree Medical Staffing, and area Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, delivery drivers bring meals Monday through Saturday throughout the year, including holidays. Kofoot sets up three daily delivery routes based on which recipient is requesting a meal for the day.
“Most of our home-delivered meal recipients live alone, and for many of them, the person delivering the meal is the only person they will see that day,” she explained. “The other issue is Dickinson County's population of citizens over the age 60 is 30 percent or 1 in 3 residents. Pre-covid, 8% of our citizens were living in poverty. I can only imagine how high that number has grown over the last nine months. This is one way we can help—by providing food, a connection, and a smile."
Accura in Milford provides meals for clients living in Wahpeton, Milford, West Okoboji, and Arnolds Park. Lakes Regional Healthcare (LRH) creates the meals for those residing in Spirit Lake and Okoboji. LRH Dietitian Beth Samuelson creates a balanced, nutritious meal plan for both kitchens to follow.
“We receive lots of compliments on the food quality and quantity—many of our recipients actually split the meal up between lunch and supper,” Kofoot said.
Meals on Wheels provides each client a set of specialized insulated food containers for their delivery of a nutritious hot meal, as well as salads and a dessert. The food is individually containerized and bagged into takeout bags, allowing the delivery to be hung on an exterior doorknob or set on an outdoor chair.
“LRH’s Judy Sawyer is one of the true heroes in Meals on Wheels; she is always going above and beyond,” Kofoot shared. “I could not do this job without her detailed attention to our program.”
When volunteers like Holman pick up meals for the day, he gets the blue coolers at either Accura in Milford or at LRH for the Spirit Lake routes. There is an attached sheet with listed names and addresses, as well as any special instructions. Hand sanitizer and grocery bags are included for each stop.
“Delivering meals is really easy, rewarding, and fun. The teams working in the kitchens are always so well organized,” Holman said. “Once all of the meals have been delivered, the coolers are returned.”
"It is the best feeling bringing joy to others through the meals! It’s incredible seeing their big smiles when they notice you have arrived with food, and they seem to really respond when you take time to call them by name."
In March 2020, COVID-19 created some major obstacles for Dickinson County’s Meals on Wheels Program. Kofoot implemented a new set of procedures to reduce the chance of virus transmission between the clients and drivers. When drivers were found to be at higher risk for COVID, other volunteers stepped up to take their place.
“This situation unfortunately meant that we were no longer able to enter our recipients' homes to check in on them and chat a bit—my favorite part of making deliveries,” she said. “However, I did match up our seniors that I was more concerned about with volunteers who would call them daily or every few days to give them the social interaction that they need.”
Another complication took place when Accura in Milford understandably suddenly shut their doors to outsiders, after COVID was found in the care center. Kofoot said with short notice, LRH’s Sawyer took over providing meals for all three routes and the hospital stepped in to take on the load.
“Judy and the rest of the staff are continually going above and beyond my expectations,” she added.
During that time, volunteers helped with the transportation of meals and insulated bags back and forth between Spirit Lake and Milford. Kofoot said the HyVee Pharmacy in Milford graciously loaned them their back entryway to use as a transfer point and holding area.
While things are edging towards more normalcy, the local Meals on Wheels branch is unfortunately seeing significantly more seniors who are not only home-bound, but who are also food insecure because they don’t have the financial resources to pay for nutritious meals.
Kofoot said the Voluntary Action Center doesn’t receive any federal funding and the state funding for meals is limited to $4,000 this fiscal year. “Through the generosity of Meals on Wheels America, Subara's Share the Love Event, and some local donors, we have so far been able to cover their meal costs for them,” she added.
SAFCO also sponsored a Volunteer Driver Appreciation Month last March, where 160 Subway gift cards were mailed to drivers who had delivered over three times in 2019.
Generous volunteers of time are also always welcome, and opportunities are available to help serve every Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m.
“We are always looking for more drivers! This is a great opportunity for your employees, friends, and parishioners to give back to your neighbors who used to be our police officers, teachers, farmers, and store clerks,” Kofoot said. “It takes less than one hour per day, and you can sign up for as many or as few days as you want. Financial assistance is also crucial to our continued ability to serve our community.”
The Iowa Great Lakes community can help fill this major need by contacting the Voluntary Action Center. Kofoot said there are always days available to volunteer, because a person never knows when this simple gift of time could be the lifesaver to someone’s day.
Meals on Wheels of Dickinson County was incorporated 45 years ago to support the area’s senior neighbors, as well as extend their independence and health as they age. The Dickinson County branch belongs to the official Meals on Wheels of America organization, which delivers meals to 2.4 million seniors every year.
To help with financial assistance, checks can be mailed to MOW at 3410 Keokuk Ave, Spirit Lake, IA 51360.