Meals on Wheels

On a brisk November afternoon, dozens of senior citizens and volunteers fill up the Thelma Skelton Meals on Wheels Meal Center in the Sacred Heart Village on Southeast Milwaukie Avenue. Hot food, board games and friendship are just some of the services offered at the center, one of 36 Meal Centers in the Portland Metro Region.

Meals on Wheels serves senior citizens ages 60 and older in Washington, Multnomah and Clark Counties. Although arguably best-known for their home delivered meals, Meals on Wheels offers much more. Executive Director Joan Smith describes some of the jobs that volunteers do:

“Help serve and prepare salads and desserts, wash the dishes and serve the milk, help with admin, help with social services, play the piano, help with foot care, blood pressure, call bingo, do support groups.”

Smith says that Meals on Wheels People has about 100 employees, but 9,000 volunteers help with all aspects of the organization. One volunteer is Bill Becker, who has been delivering meals three days a week for the past five years. Becker enjoys the job.

“It’s just the comradery you receive when you deliver the meals to the seniors. They’re always glad to see you and it’s just an enjoyable experience.”

Every year one million meals are served by Meals on Wheels People, at the homes of seniors and at its centers. A frequent visitor to the Thelma Skelton center is Orville Tinsley, who comes for more than a meal.

“I come in here because it’s a place to go for one. Outside of the food it’s the comradery, come and meet people and it’s a break from my very busy day of watching television.”

Tinsley says the service provided by Meals on Wheels has kept him from going hungry.

“There have been times that it is the only meal I have gotten and, were it not for Meals on Wheels, not in several days.”

Because of volunteers like Becker, many are able to avoid the unfortunate reality of not being able to eat.

“It’s a very pleasant service to be able to donate your time.”

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