Volunteers Bring More than Just a Hot Meal

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I have a sneaking suspicion winter is going to come back to Fargo-Moorhead this year. Hopefully, it won’t last until May like it did last year.

It’s OK to joke about the nine months of winter we get in North Dakota and Minnesota and how hearty we Norwegians are, but the truth is, for some people, the snow makes it very hard to get around.

There is a whole population of people who won’t leave their homes once winter sets in. There are more than 350 homebound residents in the Red River Valley, but thanks to Meals on Wheels and the 30 volunteers who donate one hour each day, those people can count on a fresh, warm lunch delivered to their door every weekday.

For some, it will be their only source of real nutrition and interaction with another person.

One of those volunteers is Heather. Every Thursday, she and her 3-year-old son, Cormick, spend one hour delivering meals to 14 grateful recipients.

Heather said she started volunteering this summer as a way to show her son civic responsibility and encourage him to come out of his shell. Little Cormick is pretty cautious of new people, but he loves delivering meals to his new homebound friends.

He gets to push elevator buttons, find numbers on apartment doors and help hand over the lunches. He has learned to look people in the eye and say, “Have a nice day.”

In return, his friends are building his self-confidence with compliments on his manners and helpfulness. Cormick’s favorite resident is Mr. Steven, because he usually rewards the young volunteer with an ice cream bar.

Heather says she loves the whole experience. She describes it as “enriching, educational and very rewarding.” Unfortunately, she will soon be taking her love to Minneapolis, where she is moving in the next month.

Heather contacted me with a great idea. She likes the concept of paying it forward, where kindnesses are done in threes, so she is asking for three people who would be willing to take over her volunteer responsibilities.

It doesn’t have to be the same Thursday shift or the same delivery route. She just wants to know that Meals on Wheels will be in even better shape when she leaves than when she found it.

Meal on Wheels volunteer coordinator Nicolette Schaefer-Vrchota says the time commitment is very flexible. It only takes an hour, and people can deliver every day, once a week, every other week or even on an on-call basis to fill in when the “regulars” have conflicts. Volunteers need a valid driver’s license and their own vehicle. The main volunteer needs to be 18 or older, but children are always welcome and encouraged to come along.

If you’ve ever wondered if you can really make an impact on another person’s life, the answer is yes. In the five minutes it takes to hand over a fresh meal, you can find your way into a person’s heart thanks to the needs of the stomach.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

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