Meals on Wheels helps neighbors through tough times

By Published On: February 7th, 2023

Seniors in our community are grateful for the nutritious foods they receive from Meals on Wheels.

Marion Polk Food Share Meals on Wheels client Don stopped working four years ago when a hip injury brought his longtime career in carpentry to an end.

At 72 years old, he’s well past the average age of retirement, especially for those working in a physically demanding trade. But if it were up to him, he’d still be out on a job site every morning.

“I’d be building right now if I didn’t have this,” Don says, pointing at the injured hip on which he recently had surgery. “I was gonna build until I was 75. There’s nothing else to do.”

Don is the kind of person who likes to stay busy. He spent 46 years as a carpenter, starting in his native Los Angeles before a $2 hourly wage increase brought him to Salem in 1975. He built a lot of houses in his time, as well as larger commercial projects like the Roth’s and McDonald’s stores in west Salem.

Now that Don isn’t working, times are a bit tough. His hip hasn’t healed from a replacement procedure four months prior, he has a hard time moving around and is enduring near-constant pain. He’s also subsisting on Social Security, and is without permanent housing.

For many seniors in our community with restricted mobility and a limited income, receiving Meals on Wheels provides much-needed nutrition without stressing their budget. Neighbors like Don, who lack permanent housing and are unable to receive home-delivered meals, are still being served by the program in valuable ways.

That’s because our Meals on Wheels program is more than just home delivery. Before the pandemic, the program offered congregate dining at two locations in Salem. When in-person meal service was put on hold during the pandemic, it was replaced with a curbside pickup model that works well for many of our older neighbors, including Don.

It provides a hot meal that doesn’t require refrigeration or cooking equipment and helps fill the gap between the inexpensive fast food or grocery store grab-and-go fare that Don usually eats for breakfast and dinner.

Weekday mornings at 11:30, Meals on Wheels employee Judy wheels a cart loaded with meal trays out to a waiting line of cars in the Center 50+ parking lot. Don is usually the first person in line to receive a hot meal, unless he’s away doing minor odd jobs or helping friends with projects. Sometimes he’ll take his meal inside and eat in the building’s lobby, other times he’ll drive somewhere to park and eat while he reads a mystery novel or a legal thriller.

Despite the fact that he can’t put weight on his right leg and has to get around with a walker, he usually offers Judy a hand pushing her meal cart outside. Chalk that up to his desire to stay busy.

Your support is helping seniors like Don make ends meet.