Volunteers, seniors bond over Meals-on-Wheels lunch deliveries

TIGARD - Florence Frederick is 103 and doesn't get many guests, which is why she looks forward to daily visits from volunteers from the Loaves and Fishes Center in Tigard.

'You made my day,' Frederick told the Meals-on-Wheels volunteers July 13 as they delivered hot food to her condominium.

For the past 30 years, the volunteers behind Loaves and Fishes Centers' Meals-on-Wheels program have brought more than just food to the homes of seniors; they also bring warmth, life and laughter to the lives of the elderly.

Today the Tigard Senior Center delivers 100 meals a day as part of the Meals-on-Wheels program. Volunteers from Toyota Financial Services, Farmer's Insurance, and Tigard Noontime Rotary - to name a few - devote their lunches to serving home-bound seniors in the Tigard area.

On July 13, Tina Bodaghi, Doug Copple and Mike Ellwein spent their lunch hour delivering hot meals to the seniors on route No. 9. As a part of Western Family Food's Meals-on-Wheels volunteer program, employees like them have cultivated lasting friendships with homebound seniors on their route for the past four years.

'It's our Wednesday crew,' Bodaghi explained as the group packed coolers of steaming chicken, green beans and peas into the trunk of the car. 'It's all about relationship building, so we make it an event.'

Years of experience mean Bodaghi has memorized the Wednesday rituals of the members of route No. 9: 'Zelda has her hair appointment, so we must deliver her meal first. Roberta just got back from the hospital so we will check up on her. Vivian has an eye exam tomorrow, so she needs double prayers.'

Loaves and Fishes organizers say they deliberately set up the adopt-a-route system so that volunteers will get to know the seniors they serve and build lasting friendships.

The Meals-on-Wheels Association of America was established in 1976, and it is the oldest and largest organization in the United States representing those who provide meal services to people in need, specifically those at risk of or experiencing hunger.

Jay Gilbertson, director of the Tigard Senior Center, explained that the mission of the Loaves and Fishes Centers is to 'ensure that no senior goes hungry or experiences social isolation.'

Back on route, Copple announced himself as he entered Frederick's modest home.

'Meals-on-Wheels here. Hi, Flo,' he said to the woman who taught school for 50 years.

Frederick squeals with joy as the three volunteers fill her living room with questions and conversation about the past week.

'Their happiness is our happiness,' Bodaghi explained of the relationship. 'Their eyes lights up every time we show up, so it's a give and take - we love it.'

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