Home Delivered Meals helps keep elderly, disabled in their homes
MARSHFIELD — “In 1973, when they first started the program, Ron’s Chuckwagon ran it,” explained Home Delivered Meals Coordinator Kris Hughes. “As the program grew, volunteers were asked to help. The city Committee on Aging took over and ran it at that time, but they found that they need more financial help and asked the United Way to help fund the program.
“The United Way and Saint Joseph’s Hospital put the program together and in 1986 changed the name from Home Bound Meals to Home Delivered Meals. They hired Jackie Zoellner as the coordinator, and the drivers who had driven prior to the merge came along.”
Today the Home Delivered Meals program serves 150 individuals on eight different routes within the city of Marshfield.
How it works
The Home Delivered Meals program is open to residents of Marshfield who are unable to prepare their own meals, do their own shopping, and need mealtime help.
“Most of our recipients are like 85 years old and older, but then there are ones that have a mental disability or physical disability,” said Hughes.
Recipients are either referred to or contact Home Delivered Meals. After Hughes notes their dietary wants and needs, she assesses the clients’ ability to afford the meals, which may be aided by funding through the United Way.
Meals are then prepared following each individual’s needs and delivered in insulated trays by volunteer drivers each day. Disposable meals are also available in takeout containers as is a cold sack lunch.
At the end of the month, meal recipients or their caregivers are billed for the entire month.
The meal delivery not only provides the recipient with hot food. It also provides human interaction for those that are confined to their homes or living on their own.
“We are that other set of hands and eyes. … We have people that are 20 and people that are 103,” said Hughes. “The main thing about our program is to keep people in their homes, to keep them independent, to keep them thriving as long as they can, especially in their elderly years. Ninety percent of the medicine of them staying well, unless they have a mental disability or dementia where it is hindering to themselves, it’s better for them to be in their own environment. Some of them, when you move them, they deteriorate.
“Fifty percent of who we take in get themselves back on track if they are below 80 years old.”
Home Delivered Meals vs. Meals on Wheels
Hughes says that the program often gets confused with Meals on Wheels, run by the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin.
“The differences are we only deliver in the city of Marshfield, and they do the city of Marshfield and Wood County,” said Hughes. “Their meals are $4.25, and ours’ are $4.30, so there is a nickel difference.
“We are 365 days a year, and they are, I believe, Monday through Friday, and they don’t do weekends unless you request it, and then on Friday they will bring you two frozen meals.
“The other big, big difference between the programs is that they will only serve people that are 60 and over, and our program can take any age.”
A call for volunteers
“I have a very deep passion for my job, having lost both of my parents within 18 months of one another and being an only child,” said Hughes. “It sincerely changed my life and made me look at things so differently.
“I truly look at my elderly meal recipients and think, ‘How would I want my parents treated?’ My recipients make me happy, they make me respect what I currently have and what I have lost, … and they humble me.”
Hughes, who has been with the program for 11 years, is passionate about her work with Home Delivered Meals but is quick to point out that it is the volunteers who have the greatest impact on the recipients.
“We have about 80 volunteers who give their time and their gas, their love, and understanding to these people,” added Hughes. “For a lot of them, they become their family, which I love.
“If you have time, that’s all that they want. … What you can give to these people just by being there, I mean the meal is secondary to a lot of them.”
While volunteers are at the heart of the program, Hughes said that there is also a need for delivery drivers.
Individuals or teams may sign up to deliver on a daily, weekly, monthly, weekday, weekend, or on-call basis. Volunteers are asked to arrive between 10:30-11 a.m. and have meals delivered by noon.
Those interested in volunteering with Home Delivered Meals should contact Volunteer Services at Saint Joseph’s Hospital or Kris Hughes at 715-387-9585 or Kristin.Hughes@ascension.org.