I have a long-standing relationship with Meals on Wheels. Early in my career in Nutrition & Dietetics, I worked as a menu planner for a company that produced the meals for a senior delivery program in Cook County. Later as a young mom in 1988, I fastened my baby daughter in her car seat so she could go along for the ride as I delivered meals to home-bound senior citizens in Winfield, Wheaton, and West Chicago in DuPage County. Ten years down the road when we moved to Long Grove I volunteered in Lake County on the routes serving Wauconda, Lake Zurich, and Island Lake. As my kids got older I would schedule my delivery days on school holidays so that they could help physically deliver the meals, and this always earned extra smiles from the recipients. When my three children were student drivers, I made them do the driving on the route with me for extra practice backing up and parking. I reluctantly had to give up volunteering as a driver when I became Village President because of the need to make some room in my schedule for the demands of the Village. But all together I spent a little over 20 years doing my small part in helping needy seniors receive a hot lunch and a friendly check-in.
Many invitations show up in my inbox to attend charity events these days, and as much as I would like to I can’t attend them all. I try to pick the ones that will have the best impact for the Village, and the ones that are the most personally meaningful to me. Meals on Wheels is certainly personal. This past Monday, March 20th I had the opportunity to come together with other elected and government officials in Lake County to be a “Champion for Meals” and help deliver meals to seniors to bring awareness to this worthy program. I was paired with Millie Hall, a volunteer driver from Lake Forest, who helped me remember the joy of serving our fellow senior residents in this way.
The Meals on Wheels “more than just a meal” model addresses three of the biggest threats of aging: isolation, hunger, and loss of independence. Nationally, 1 in 6 seniors struggle with hunger, and programs such as this deliver the support that keeps seniors in their own homes, where they want to be. This in turn reduces the early need for nursing home and hospital care, saving billions in healthcare costs. In 2016, over 122,400 home delivered meals were provided locally in our county. I was honored last week to help join with others to spotlight this needed program. In Lake County, Meals on Wheels is administered through Catholic Charities and you can find out more by visiting www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org.