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Meals on Wheels: delivering food and friendship

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By Brent Schanding

A cluster of women scrambled in the kitchen of the Multi-Purpose Community Action Center on Washington Street last week. They bumped elbows as they packed warm, foil-wrapped meals in vinyl thermal packs. Volunteers Jackie McClain and Marjorie Gash gave the packs a quick inspection, before Wanda Adams, site manager of the Shelbyville center, gave a final thumbs-up.

That signal meant the meals could be loaded in a van, where they would be delivered to homebound locals, as part of the center's Meals on Wheels program. About 25 local people, mostly elderly, rely on the warm meals daily. Many of the recipients live on fixed incomes and Adams said if it were not for the program and its volunteers, some of the homebound patients would likely do without.

"Most of them live by themselves with no support," she said. "They're frail, or they don't have any other resources."

Adams said the center is experiencing a growing need for volunteers as more people become reliant on the homebound food services program.

"This is a very low-budgeted program," she said. "And I'm just one person."

About a dozen other rotating volunteers assist Adams each day, including Holly Husband, public relations director for Jewish Hospital Shelbyville.

Husband often drives door-to-door, sometimes to as many 10 homes a day, offering a smile and a warm meal to those in need.

"It doesn't take a lot out of your day," she said.

Many of the people Husband encounters on her routes rely largely on the hospital's services. The week before Christmas, Michael Collins, CEO of JHS, joined Husband's delivery efforts. It's a way to give back to the community, he said.

At an apartment on Cardinal Drive, Collins offered a hot lunch to Meals on Wheels recipient, Ann Clark.

Clark's apartment is decorated with angels and that day she found another angel in Collins.

Clark expressed gratitude for her meal -- a plate of lasagna, brussel sprouts, pineapples and Jell-o.

Husband and Collins made three other stops in less than hour, each recipient equally grateful to receive a warm meal. Collins paused longer at a stop at North Shelby House, to chat with recipient James McCubbins and his dachshund.

McCubbins said the year had not been very good for him, although he remained optimistic about 2008.

Adams said friendly chats can brighten a homebound patient's day. They also embrace the ideas behind Meals on Wheels.

"There's such a need out there in the county," Adams said.

For more information about the local Meals on Wheels program or to volunteer contact Adams at 633-2218.