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Meals on Wheels has provided dinner for generations of Southeast seniors

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - John Hoover, an Eastmoreland resident, has been delivering Meals on Wheels in Inner Southeast for eleven years. Once a week, John Hoover drives from his home in Eastmoreland to pick up a dozen meals at the Thelma Skelton Center of “The Meals on Wheels People” – this nonprofit used to be called “Loaves and Fishes” – on the street floor of the Sacred Heart Village at S.E. Milwaukie Avenue and Center Street, in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

The meals are prepared at the Meals on Wheels headquarters in Multnomah Village, and then delivered to Thelma Skelton and other centers throughout the city. From there, a volunteer delivers them to the assigned dwellings of homebound seniors over 60 years old.

Hoover has been driving his delivery route – S.E. 52nd to 72nd Avenues, and Knight to Ogden Streets – for eleven years, well before he retired in 2012. He says the total time for his route, including pickup at Thelma Skelton, is about one and a half hours.

Most of his homes are expecting him; but sometimes no one answers the door, so Hoover tries to contact the owner by phone. Usually contact is made; but sometimes the food is returned to Thelma Skelton if the homeowner is not home.

Hoover says meal recipients usually talk with him, but often not too long. On occasion he has gone into a home when someone has needed help with moving something heavy, or had some task that was beyond the resident’s capacity.

THE BEE rode along on this particular day. One meal recipient, Anita Peterson, was sitting on her couch when Hoover arrived. She was especially appreciative to receive prepared meals at her age. “I’m ninety years old. The meals are convenient. I am very thankful for them,” she smiled.

All Meals on Wheels drivers must go through a background check. Driving a route can be a solo or a team effort, if the driver wants someone to accompany or help. When we accompanied Hoover on his route, we too filled out the form for a background check.

Hoover commented on how he adapted over the eleven years, at times when he couldn’t deliver the meals by himself. “When I had back surgery, friends came along and helped with lifting the ice chest. (The ice chest is used on Fridays, when some meals are delivered frozen for the weekend.)

“When I had a herniated disk, I drove, and Susan [my wife] helped with delivering the meals. There is no reason why a team of friends can’t help out.”

When we asked what he likes most about this volunteer job, Hoover says, “The fact that you can be yourself. When I was a trial attorney, sometimes I had to impress or explain myself. Here, I am doing something good, just to do it. It gives you a certain humility.” As for anyone who may be considering being Meals on Wheels drivers, he says, “Give it a chance, and it will settle in as a good thing to do.”

Weekday substitute and on-call drivers are always needed. The background check takes only minutes to fill out, plus two to three days to process for approval.

For more information, call the Manager of the Thelma Skelton Center, Colette Livermore, at 503/953-8209. To register for meals – and any senior over 60 years of age can receive them; there is no income test – call 503/736-6325.