The Visiting Nurse’s Association (VNA) Meals on Wheels provides hot, nutritious, freshly prepared meals five days a week to Dallas County residents who can’t provide for themselves due to illness, advanced age or disability. These meals contribute to the overall health and well-being of participating seniors, including those with chronic illnesses that are affected by diet, such as diabetes and heart disease, and frail seniors who are homebound. Without these meals, many seniors, low income and disabled adults would go hungry.
At 5 a.m. each weekday, more than 5,650 meals are prepared in the VNA Haggerty Kitchen (the country’s largest single-site provider of such meals) packaged and delivered to designated pick-up stations where drivers, half of whom are volunteers, are furnished with meals and route map to get the food to those in need.
The Meals on Wheels Program in Dallas was organized in 1957 as a pilot project by the Women’s Council of Dallas County. It was one of the first Meals on Wheels programs in the United States.
In 1973, VNA agreed to assume responsibility for the service, viewing the Meals on Wheels program as a logical extension of home health care and as an advancement of the agency’s mission. One of my friends has been a volunteer driver for the VNA program for nearly that long.
Katheryn Livengood signed up as a volunteer for the program in 1982 and has been delivering meals to those in need ever since.
I asked Katheryn why she has committed time and energy to the program for the past 36 years.
“I can’t fathom someone not having something to eat,” she said, “it hurts me.”
Another friend, Becky Riggins, told me that she likes to give back to the community and that this is one little thing one can do. She started as a volunteer driver in 1992 after she retired from her full- time job.
I met up with the women, both residents of Lake Highlands and long-time members of Central Christian Church in the parking lot of Northway Christian Church, the designated meal pick-up station, and joined them for the Wednesday morning run.
Our first stop was a delightful apartment patio decked with a gazillion whimsical wind chimes where we were greeted by Jules, the German Shepherd and his owner.
I asked Jules to pose next to the neatest “beware of dog” sign I have ever seen.
It read, “This home protected by the Good Lord and a German Shepherd. If you come here to steal or do harm, you might meet them both.”
We continued through the remaining seven stops on the route delivering Wednesday’s packaged meal of barbecue riblet, pinto and green beans, roll, gelatin and milk.
Thanks VNA and people like Katheryn and Becky who have faithfully helped make the program a success for so many years, ensuring that those who may otherwise have gone hungry were able to sit down to a nutritious meal.