Helping the homebound

Honor: Meals on Wheels workers nominate a colleague who shows `concern and compassion' for her clients. Betty Wise is Carroll County Volunteer of the Year.

Senior feature

May 17, 2000|By Jean Marie Beall | Jean Marie Beall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For many homebound Carroll County residents, Betty Wise is one of the many familiar faces of Meals on Wheels, a volunteer-based nonprofit agency that delivers meals to the elderly, disabled and convalescent.

Wise, 73, of Westminster began delivering meals 27 years ago - responding to a strong urge to volunteer - and continues her work with the agency today. She is one of the agency's 140 volunteers."I was free to do it, and I found volunteering very rewarding," said Wise, who was recently named Carroll County's Volunteer of the Year for her work with the program.

Meals on Wheels delivers one hot meal and one cold meal each day to an average 75 county residents (some clients are long term, others short term). Residents pay a sliding fee based on income. During the last fiscal year, Meals on Wheels served 32,365 meals to 184 customers, officials said."We had 125 women and 59 men," said Toni Gianforti, manager of marketing and communications for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland Inc., which oversees the Carroll organization. "The average client is a 75-year-old woman who lives alone.""We serve anybody of any age who is homebound," she added. "Some people have the misconception that we serve only to the elderly. Some people may be recovering from surgery."

Meals on Wheels originated in London during World War II, when thousands were left homeless and without resources to buy and prepare food. The program came to the United States in the early 1950s, began serving Baltimore in 1960, and expanded to Carroll and other metropolitan counties in the 1970s.

Meals on Wheels operates a central facility in Baltimore, where food is prepared and then sent to the suburban branches. It is often packaged for individual use at metropolitan facilities.

In Carroll County, food packing is done at the Salvation Army in Westminster. Volunteers arrive at 9 a.m. every weekday to pack food, said Nancy Homiak, who has worked with the Carroll program for 10 years.

Volunteers drive three routes in Westminster and one in Sykesville. Paid drivers deliver meals elsewhere in the county.

Alice Murphy, 72, is among the customers. She called Meals on Wheels after surgery left her unable to prepare meals."The program has been really helpful to me," Murphy said. "I had heard about the Meals on Wheels program through the Westminster Senior Center. So, I called."I'm recovering from open-heart surgery. I'm still not able to bend over and get things out of the cabinet," she said.

Homiak said that it is volunteers like Wise and others - everyone from students earning community service credits to members of community organizations - who keep the program running."Her fellow volunteers nominated her," Gianforti said. "They said they nominated her because of her concern and compassion for her clients and that these were her greatest gifts to the program."

Wise said she was pleased with the honor."I do it to help others," she said. "It was quite an honor to get the award. I plan to volunteer as long as I can."

To take advantage of Meals on Wheels, call 410-857-4447.

Prospective clients must be homebound. Clients must provide name, address, phone number, Social Security number, birth date, gender and race, household composition, major health problems and monthly income.

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