Meals on Wheels recognizes volunteers at luncheon

Dunkirk-Fredonia Meals on Wheels (DFMOW), a United Way agency, recently held a luncheon at St. John’s United Church of Christ to honor their volunteers. Carol Oliveira, vice chairperson of the Meals on Wheels Board of Directors, welcomed those present to this special event. This day was set aside to honor and thank the volunteers for sharing their time and making a difference in the lives of so many within their community.

The invocation was given by the Rev. Rodney Houck. The meal, prepared by Brooks Hospital, was also enjoyed by the Meals on Wheels clients through home meal delivery.

Executive Director Joan Houck also welcomed the volunteers from Dunkirk, Fredonia and Silver Creek, from the Resource Center and group homes, from Spoke Folk, the Dunkirk Senior Crafters, and volunteers working at Walgreens, Wood Forest Bank and the Walmart Hearing Center. Mrs. Houck said all the volunteers have something in common, which is to carry out the agency’s mission to deliver meals to the elderly, ill, disabled and homebound, thus helping them to remain as independent as possible.

It was pointed out that last year more than 75,000 meals were delivered to people living in Northern Chautauqua County. Although DFMOW is a private not-for-profit agency, it is also part of a network of 5,000-plus meal delivery programs throughout the United States. Thanks to volunteer participation, the Meals on Wheels programs constitute the largest volunteer network in America, delivering more than a million meals to seniors each day.

National studies have shown support of senior meal programs help to preserve the health and independence of many seniors, reduce premature nursing home placement, avert malnutrition and control chronic health conditions.

Along with meal delivery, volunteers are also aware of the importance of a daily check to see that each client is okay. In 2012, the MOW office responded to 132 calls from volunteers and van drivers concerning client problems. Several of these calls required emergency procedures.

Mrs. Houck went on to say that no matter how small a volunteer’s involvement may seem, it is very meaningful and helps to improve the quality of life for another person. The executive director concluded her remarks by thanking all of the volunteers who for many years have supported the program through the delivery of meals, birthday visits and office assistance. Their participation has made 43 years of community service a reality.

Debbie Basile, executive director of RSVP and the Foster Grandparents Program, spoke about the importance of volunteering and the benefits one receives when he or she gets involved.

Special recognition was given to Pat Sysol, who was crowned “A Real Superhero” for her participation in the home meal delivery program for more than 22 years. A floral arrangement was also presented to her.

The following volunteers received “20 year recognition” pins: James McIlvain and the Rev. Houck for their participation in the home meal delivery program and to Loretta Slaton Torain for service as secretary on the Meals on Wheels Board of Directors. Certificates of recognition were awarded to 31 new volunteers.

Volunteers recognized for ten years of service were Carrie Divine and Dennis Karin. Those recognized for five years of service were Robert Delevan, Regina Goodrich and Delores Mitchell. From the Resource Center, five-year pins were awarded to Peter Joy, Jamie Valentine, Jeffrey Agnello, Don Parker and Beatrice Salisbury.

Gail Lutz gave a reading titled “Cheer for the Sick,” then a trio consisting of Lutz, Adrian Welka and Lorraine Bailey sang the original Meals on Wheels song “Thanks for our Volunteers,” with the lyrics written by Bailey.

Appreciation was expressed to over 50 merchants and friends who provided door prizes for this special event.

The luncheon concluded with remarks by past Board Chairperson Charles Divine, who expressed gratitude to the volunteers for all they do to assist the Meals on Wheels program.