May 17, 2013
Five Community First Credit Union employees in Oshkosh have teamed together since December to provide Meals on Wheels lunches every Monday to needy recipients in Oshkosh.
Shari Christie, Oshkosh South Park branch manager, a Meals on Wheels volunteer for more than a dozen years, was invited to the May 16 Evening of Stars bi-annual event put on by the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation and the Oshkosh Northwestern to recognize volunteer contributors to various nonprofit causes in the community.
“They’re thrilled that Community First is now a part of Meals on Wheels,” said Shari, who joined CFCU in late October. When Shari talked about delivering Meals on Wheels at her previous employer, her colleague Kristine Barnett suggested they do the same. “They like it when businesses get involved.”
Shari, Kristine, Kari Braun and Tammy Brown from South Park and Jolene Heuchert from Westowne take turns delivering the anywhere from 4 to 7 or 8 meals each Monday. “It is very rewarding and the seniors always thank us for volunteering,” Tammy said. “The smiles on their faces make it worth the hour once a week.”
A combination of businesses, service clubs and individuals deliver from 65 to 80 meals on weekdays in Oshkosh, said Judy Richey, Meals on Wheels coordinator, Oshkosh Family Inc., which has been providing the service since 1966. “We’re able to tailor our meals to specific dietary needs – heart healthy, diabetic or renal (dialysis patients) – you name it and we’ve got it.”
Most recipients are frail, homebound elderly but an increasing number are individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. In some of those cases, the meal helps reduce the burden or stress of the responsible spouse or relative. “As the dementia progresses the care levels increase and, in trying to keep them in home, that caregiver is getting burned out,” Richey said.
While dropping off a nutritious meal involves only a brief visit, in some cases it may be one of few social interactions for a homebound individual with limited resources and mobility. Richey is notified in the event a delivery volunteer observes any cause for concern. “The visit, the socialization and safety check are priceless,” Richey said. “We help to maintain these individuals in their homes safely for a much longer period of time than they would have under other circumstances.”
Shari added, “You just feel good because the people are really glad to see you.”