At home, but not alone

Volunteer Sue Philp delivers a meal to Dorothy Buckley of Beaumont. Buckley (rig

Sue Philp of Beaumont began volunteering for Nutrition and Services For Seniors (NSFS) delivering hot food through the nonprofit’s Meals on Wheels program with her mother, Nel Phillips, more than 12 years ago. After her mother passed away, she continued the family tradition of helping seniors and even enlisted her husband, Roy.

“It’s just a wonderful volunteer thing to do,” she said.

“It’s a humbling experience,” Roy added. “You think you’ve got problems? You don’t know what these people are going through.”

As The Examiner rode along with the Philps on their delivery route through impoverished Beaumont neighborhoods, we noticed firsthand a great need being met for each senior they greeted.

Oscar Rideaux, 85 at the time, had been receiving meals from NSFS for more than 20 years. He uses a wheelchair due to knee and back problems.

“Most of the time when I finish paying bills, I don’t have nothing left,” Rideaux said. “That little dinner I get from over there, I leave that for me at night. I snack on that. … My provider fixes me breakfast … but she leaves at 2 p.m. At night I got a little food to snack on.”

Another stop on the Philps’ ride brought us to Dorothy Buckley’s house. Buckley, 84, is completely blind in her left eye and partially blind in her right. This makes it difficult, even dangerous, for her to cook for herself.

“They’re real good,” Buckley said of NSFS. “Everybody is kind to me. … I call them my children because they’re so kind. They’re always there to help me if I need something or need them, and I appreciate that so much.”

The non-profit is responsible for delivering 1,500 meals a day — 1,100 of those go to homes and the other 400 to senior centers — which equates to around 402,000 a year, according to NSFS Executive Director Elaine Shellenberger.

“Basically for someone to get our home-delivered meals, they need to be homebound and not have someone there that could prepare that meal,” she said. “It keeps people in their homes and enhances their quality of life.”

Potential clients who are coming out of the hospital and need meals are immediately placed on a delivery route and not on the non-profit’s waiting list, which averages around 50 people at a time.

“Maybe they’ve just broken their arm or their leg and maybe they just need it for around three months until they’re back on their feet,” she said.

Shellenberger reminds that it’s about more than just meals, however.

“Without someone going and checking on them every day, we’re not sure what would happen,” Shellenberger said. She said recently a NSFS driver discovered a client who had fallen in her driveway while walking out to the mailbox.

“We called an ambulance,” she said. “What would have happened if our driver had not been there?”

With cuts in governmental programs coupled with an aging population, NSFS has had to rely more on local support, Shellenberger said.

“Funding has been down,” she said, but the local community has helped take up the slack, providing great support for NSFS fundraisers such as Deliver the Difference, held each May, and potato fundraisers in the fall and spring as well as the nonprofit’s newest fundraiser Real Food Feast, which features gluten-free meals prepared by Chef Charles Duit. The fundraiser took place Wednesday, Nov. 9, and helped fund the nonprofit’s “Grow to Share Garden,” which has yielded 3,000 servings of vegetables since it was first planted in October 2015.

Although the nonprofit employs drivers to deliver meals, the success of the program wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of around 200 volunteers, Shellenberger points out, volunteers like 93-year-old Beaumont resident Al Prosser, who has delivered meals for more than 22 years.

“If they didn’t get meals, they wouldn’t eat,” Prosser said. “It makes me feel good, too, to see that they’re doing alright.”

If you’d like to volunteer or make a donation to Nutrition and Services for Seniors, visit seniormeals.org or call (409) 892-4455. NSFS partnered with Home Instead on the Be a Santa to a Senior program in December, which fulfills a wish list of presents for clients, and helps seniors have a good Christmas. For more information, call Home Instead at (409) 892-7494.

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