Volunteers Aiding Elderly Are Themselves Retired

Meals On Wheels Service Takes Help To Homebound

April 24, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

When Edgar Denson, 90, opened the door of his Pasadena house recently, two senior citizens greeted him with a day's worth of food.

He's one of about 200 Anne Arundel County people -- elderly, ailing or unable to get out -- who receive deliveries from volunteers for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland who are themselves likely to be older people.

"When I started 21 years ago, it was young mothers whose children were in school" who were making the deliveries, said Nancy H. Shores, the program administrator of the Anne Arundel County branch office, located in Severna Park. "That isn't the way it is anymore. Those mothers have gone to work."

Now, volunteers include folks such as Barbara Mittrick, 64, of West Severna Park, a retired medical technologist, and her bridge partner, neighbor and longtime friend, Anne Fach, 67, a retired registered nurse.

They are both involved in church volunteering now that they are both retired. They use their own cars and pay for their own gas.

"These people are not reimbursed, except with the `thank yous' and the smiles," Shores said.

The two volunteers went to Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park on a recent afternoon for a shift driving Route No. 3. Armed with a roster of clients whom they visit on a familiar course, they packed Fach's Oldsmobile Regency 98 with enough food for a hot lunch, a cold dinner and breakfast the next morning: hot barbecued chicken breast, corn O'Brien and mixed greens in a tin, cold ham, cheese, bread, carrot salad, milk, juice, lemon pudding, canned pineapple and cold cereal.

The food is brought down each day in large quantities from the Highlandtown community in Baltimore and then packaged in the church kitchen, Shores said.

Fach drove with Mittrick at her side. One person on their route was Denson, a soft-spoken nonagenarian with white whiskers. The volunteers placed his meal on his table and asked how he was doing.

"I live by myself, and I can't do any cooking like I used to," said Denson. He putters around in sneakers with the uppers removed to keep his inflamed feet from hurting. He sat down to his food opposite a refrigerator that has taped to it a list of the medications he takes.

"The meals are balanced nice where they have vegetables like I would never eat," said Denson, a retired butcher who is divorced and has three daughters. "Otherwise, I'd eat junk food, and that would do me no good."

He said one of his daughters, who lives nearby, checks on him. "I don't want to be a burden," he said.

Mittrick and Fach try to bring more than food to their clients. "If the client wouldn't eat without you, you sit and watch them eat," Mittrick said. She has picked up overturned garbage cans and brought in the mail at some places.

The women's route consists of about a dozen people who pay $50.10 a week if they can afford it, less or nothing if they can't.

Meals on Wheels recipients sign up on their own or are referred through county departments of aging or by hospitals or social workers, according to Shores, who said the service can be temporary or long-term.

"[The volunteers] make it possible for people to stay in their own homes, and the family feels reassured that someone comes to check on them each day," she said.

Shores said the number has dropped slightly -- by just under 10 percent -- in recent years as new assisted-living facilities in the county have opened.

"Those people not needing great institutionalization but a little help, that's been the people we serve," she said.

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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