I jumped in the backseat of the older red Honda station wagon and buckled up tight. Margaret was decked out in her Giants cap and jersey already waiting for me in the driver’s seat with the motor running. I had heard stories of how this 86 year old retired school teacher was quick and efficient, I didn’t want to keep her waiting. In the front passenger seat the insulated container held 38 hot meals to be delivered to homebound seniors in the Meals on Wheels program. I sat next to the ice chest in the back seat which held salads and fresh fruit.
While we drove through the neighborhoods of Ukiah delivering meals to homebound seniors, I learned that Margaret was born in LA, went to college in Berkley and when she and her husband started looking for work, they were offered jobs in Ukiah. They quickly fell in love with the small-town feel of the community. Margaret and her husband worked as teachers and also delivered newspapers for the San Francisco Chronicle until they decided that they were working too much. They retired from teaching and sold the newspaper business. Having always been active and engaged community members, they knew that they needed something to keep them occupied in retirement and that is when they found the Meals on Wheels program. At the time, the program was being operated through the Ukiah Senior Center.
Margaret and her husband easily caught onto the routes having spent a number of years delivering papers to many of the same neighborhoods. They enjoyed the social interaction with the homebound seniors and found great satisfaction in providing this valuable service to the community. Margaret’s husband is no longer able to assist with the delivery of Meals on Wheels, but Margaret continues to serve this program and plans on serving until she is no longer physically able to. In the 28 years that Margaret has been delivering Meals on Wheels, she has witnessed a few interesting situations… She has been the first on scene to find a Meals on Wheels recipient deceased and another time she found a recipient who had fallen in her kitchen was unable to get up and had spent the night on the kitchen floor. She told of one crazy incident when she found a recipient deceased and had to call 911. The police showed up and began questioning her extensively about her involvement. Margaret kept telling them that she didn’t know anything, she just delivered the meals.
As we turned onto a narrow lane, I spotted a small tan house surrounded by overgrown rose bushes and sweet lilacs. Outside was an elderly woman standing with a walker, by her side was a large German Shepherd dog excitedly wagging its tail. As we pulled up to the front gate Margaret told me that the dog’s name was Lucky and he was rescued from a shelter. Margaret handed me a hot meal and a treat for Lucky. I hopped out of the backseat and walked to the front gate. I handed the elderly woman her meal and patted Lucky on the head while feeding him his treat.
Margaret knows the names of most of the recipients, the names of their dogs, and even their favorite television shows. Margaret knows who will be waiting outside for their meal, who will want to visit for a few minutes, and which houses to knock and enter or to wait. This one gets vegetarian, this one prefers no salad, and this one gets a few treats for the dog.
What a great day, what a great reminder that the Meals on Wheels program is so much more than a hot meal.