Junior social work major volunteers for Meals on Wheels.
Even before the pandemic, many older Americans faced hunger and loneliness on a regular basis. The situation has worsened with COVID — and become more widespread.
Destiny Swan, a junior social work major at Cal U, is doing her part to help as a “runner” for a local Meals on Wheels program. She volunteers four days a week, delivering meals to individuals near Cal U who are over age 60 and face limitations that make it more difficult to put food on the table.
Her brief visits to their doorsteps help assure that these older adults have access to a nutritious meal and someone to check in on them.
“I may be the only face they see that day,” said Swan. “It means a lot to them.”
Meals on Wheels is a nationwide initiative, but a variety of nonprofits coordinate programs at the local level.
During her search for volunteer opportunities, Swan contacted Center in the Woods, a Brownsville-based organization that provides services to older adults.
She delivers meals to clients in Belle Vernon and California, Pa. It takes an hour to an hour-an-a-half to complete a route.
“It’s important to put aside yourself for a moment just to help others,” said Swan, who plans to continue volunteering until she graduates.
Through the experience, she’s gotten a glimpse of how isolated and vulnerable many older adults are, especially during the pandemic. She’s also seen how beneficial the program is, both to the clients and those making the deliveries.
While some clients opt to have her simply leave their delivery on the doorstep without seeing her, many still take the opportunity to say “hello” from a distance. In addition, many of her fellow volunteers are of retirement age and have told her that they volunteer because it gives them an opportunity to socialize.
Swan also enjoys the social aspect of the experience — and she’s found that volunteering with Meals on Wheels gives her a chance to take a break during a hectic day. “It’s a stress reliever most times,” she said.