Steve Bell first remembers Meals on Wheels from growing up in a little town in Pennsylvania. “My mom was a driver in the late ‘70s. At that time, it was a bunch of older ladies that made meals in somebody’s kitchen. My mom was one of five or six people that drove around and delivered them to about 25 people total.”
That memory – along with being a recent retiree – provided the perfect motivation for Steve to follow in his mother’s footsteps (and tire tracks). In June of 2016, after a year ‘puttering around,’ he decided, “I needed something to get me off the sofa.”
It is difficult to imagine Steve ever lounging on the sofa. On most Wednesday mornings, he is one of a core group of 8 to 10 volunteers who lead our Home Delivered Grocery program. Long before the sun rises, he and his cohort are well on their way to assembling over 500 bags of groceries for low-income seniors.
Steve explained, “The hour doesn’t bother me. I get home a little after 9am and I still have the whole day to do what I want.” After a brief pause, he emphasized, “And I do.” Those last three words punctuate a freedom he feels after an ambitious 35-year career at AT&T. He finally has time to do the things he enjoys in life, at his own pace. For Steve, much of that enjoyment comes from helping other people.
In the year he has volunteered with Meals on Wheels, Steve has become a pillar of our program. In addition to assembling home delivered groceries, he leads corporate groups in distributing Disaster Preparedness Kits and coordinates deliveries of microwaves and refrigerators to seniors around the city.
He is also a one-man geek squad, arranging home visits to trouble-shoot pesky computer problems. His very first visit was to Estella, an 84-year-old woman from El Salvador. “I’m getting ready to set her up on Skype. She wants to be able to see her family in Central America.” Through all of these visits, Steve becomes a de facto member of the family; a trusted confidante who can help ease some of the daily struggles many seniors face. “We’ve set up Estella so that all the basic computer stuff is accessible with one click of a button; Spanish newspapers, TV, and her health plan with her doctor.”
For Steve, the conviction to take care of homebound seniors stems from his own experience taking care of his parents, along with the help of his four siblings. “We managed to keep my parents in their own home until the end. That was something that was very important to them.” He added, “Once you go through that, you understand from a senior’s point of view what aging gracefully with dignity is.”
Kathy Stirling, one of our Volunteer Program Managers, thanks her lucky stars Steve made his way to Meals on Wheels. “When volunteers like Steve enter our world, it’s like a gift from above. He is intelligent, kind, fun, and willing to take on any number of projects. He is simply the best!”
Steve is as pragmatic as he is compassionate. More than anything, he wants to make the lives of homebound seniors as uncomplicated as possible. When the list of requests from clients starts to stack up, he’ll jump right in and say, “Just give ‘em to me. Don’t put them on a list. Just tell me they need something and I’ll make it happen.”
Lucky for us and all of the seniors we serve, it always happens; usually before the sun rises.