GREEN RIVER – Rain or shine, the elderly and homebound residents in Green River get Meals on Wheels delivered to their homes. They delivered in the heavy snowfall last Thursday that left many people unable to leave their neighborhood. They delivered last Friday in the subzero temperatures that made many vehicles fail to start.
“As long as my drivers are coming in and our center is open, we will deliver because people depend on those meals,” said Meals on Wheels Home Delivery Coordinator Melynda Lenling.
Lenling has been involved with Meals on Wheels in some capacity since she was 14 years old. She delivered in Rock Springs for two years and then delivered in Green River for more than eight years before taking her current position.
The meals are prepared at the Golden Hour Senior Center by Lenling and her staff, along with the meals they serve in-house at the center.
According to Lenling, the meals are designed to fulfill a complete nutritional plan for the whole day—main entree, two starches, a vegetable, a salad, a fruit, a dessert, and a half-pint of 2% milk.
“They are providing, possibly, their only meal of the day and an interaction with a person,” said Lenling.
Golden Hour Senior Center Director Sheila Shermetzler said that human interaction cannot be discounted for its importance. Those few minutes can sometimes be the only interaction the patrons have in a day and “it allows us to make sure they’re okay and the heat is working,” she said.
Each weekday, 65 to 70 meals go out to Green River from the senior center. The elderly, homebound, frail, or sick get what they need. They also deliver frozen meals on Wednesdays to get them through the weekend.
Recent equipment upgrades have allowed the process to go smoother. The center switched to disposable trays that are sealed by vacuum sealer.
The old trays were heavy duty plastic and they were stacked with the hot and cold food near one another. Then, the trays were bound together.
“If we had jello, it would end up melted into a water liquid. Now the cold foods stay cold and the hot foods stay hot,” said Lenling.
The meals are loaded into insulated containers, also one of the new equipment upgrades, along with either hot packs or cold packs.
Plus, the upgrades end up being cheaper. “This is 6 cents going out the door each day instead of $5 trays. Sometimes we don’t get those back. Sometimes they are cracked, damaged, or missing pieces,” said Lenling. The new disposable trays are also microwave safe—something the old trays were not.
Deliveries are made by at least five drivers each day, such as 87-year-old retiree Ray Curtis.
Curtis, a retired mine worker, has been taking Meals on Wheels to people for more than 25 years. He got involved with Meals on Wheels as a way to stay active.
His apricot poodle, Peaches, rides in a raised box in the front seat of his van.
“It’s so she can see what’s going on,” said Curtis.
Curtis delivers around 17 meals on his route, sometimes shoveling if he can’t get into the house. It takes him around an hour.
“I’ve been doing it so long, I just know the route by heart,” said Curtis. He’s greeted by smiles most of the time and the dogs treat him like a regular.
Sharon Patterson greeted him at the door. She looks forward to the meals. “They’re very good,” she said. “They’re my survival.”
Curtis drops off the food, pets the dogs for a moment, and then he’s off to the next house. Patterson gave him a treat for his poodle.
Curtis gets through his list of deliveries and then heads off to shovel for the church. Not sure if it’s the Meals on Wheels, but 25 years delivering has definitely kept him active. Golden Hour Senior Center is always looking for more drivers, just in case.