long, bitter winter has been a steady reminder of the benefit that Meals on Wheels has delivered to homebound Columbus residents for the past four decades.
With about 30 inches of snow this winter, double the seasonal average, weather has put the weekday delivery program to the test.
From school closings to club meetings and event cancellations, the weather has disrupted normal life in Bartholomew County 36 days since Dec. 1.
But Meals on Wheels drivers have plowed ahead in their dedicated service to others.
“Since the beginning of this year, we’ve only had two days where we haven’t delivered meals,” said Bob Pitman, executive director of Mill Race Center, which coordinates the meals program. “In those cases, the weather was horrible.”
Such consistency has been a blessing to Columbus resident Kay Seban.
Physical limitations keep her from standing for long periods and cooking for herself.
Seban began receiving daily lunches and dinners through Meals on Wheels shortly after the program was recommended to her in 2010.
“I’m eating a lot better now,” she said. “Before I would eat what I could piece together in the kitchen.”
Seban, who is among 30 to 40 current meals recipients, said she would recommend Meals on Wheels to anyone.
Meals on Wheels sees seasonal variations, with as many as 60 people participating, said Diana Gore, executive director at the Keepsake Village assisted-living center, which prepares the nutritionally balanced meals.
“You get a balanced meal,” Seban said. “It’s also nice having someone come by to check on you.”
Volunteer Bob Snively often delivers meals to Seban and said he’s built up a rapport with many of the individuals he delivers to.
During his four years as a Meals on Wheels volunteer, Snively has even had the pleasure of crossing paths with three ladies who used to play bridge with his mother, the late Frances Snively McIver.
Though the ladies’ physical health has declined, they’re still sharp and have their memory, Snively said.
Such is the case with many of the people he delivers meals to.
“The program enables people to stay in their homes much longer than they would be able to if they weren’t guaranteed a nutritional meal five days per week,” Snively said.
Dexter Fravel, Americorps volunteer resource manager, oversees Meals on Wheels’ more than 35 volunteers. He said some have been delivering meals for 15 years or more.
“Their dedication is unbelievable,” Fravel said.
Longtime volunteer Wilna Braun started delivering meals for the program in the 1980s when she was living in Illinois. After moving to the Columbus area in 2000, she continued her dedicated service to the program.
Braun, who also benefited personally from the program following hip-replacement surgeries in 2010 and 2013, said Meals on Wheels volunteers often are the only faces some residents see all day.
“We don’t realize and understand sometimes what others’ limitations or handicaps are,” Braun said. “This has taught me to be more compassionate with people.”
For a small fee, individuals with physical and/or cognitive limitations that keep them homebound may sign up to receive a hot lunch and additional cold sack supper delivered to their home. There are also meal options for individuals with special dietary needs, including low-sodium, low-sugar and gluten-free.
Those who are unable to pay the fee in full — $6.30 per day for a hot lunch, or $10.50 per day for a hot lunch and cold sack supper — can seek assistance through Thrive Alliance, Pitman said.