Homemade meals deliver nourishment, comfort

Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Volunteer driver George Meissner, who has been delivering meals through the Shell Knob Central Crossing Senior Center, hands a homemade meal to Bethal Smith, who is not only happy to receive the meal, but the company just as much. Contributed photo

Over 900 meals hand-delivered each month to area residents

Everyone appreciates a hearty, homemade meal.

Not only do they taste better than anything from a microwave, but being hand-made and hand-delivered by a friendly face makes them that much tastier and extends a simple act to something beyond a meal.

The home-delivered meal program, based out of Shell Knob's Central Crossing Senior Center and an outreach of the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging, has been dishing up homemade meals, comfort, and company to residents of Barry County since 2000.

The program is for residents who are unable to fix their own meals at home, or who are recuperating from surgery.

According to the center, about 900 meals are delivered each month to homes, and a total of 2,000 between home-delivered meals and meals served on site.

"Our numbers are increasing all the time," said Sarah Patterson, center administrator. "People are finally realizing that the home-delivered meals are a good thing for them in most cases. If they can't get around, or can get out to go to the doctors office, but can't get around to go shopping, we consider that a qualifier."

About 33 Barry County residents receive meals in the Golden, Eagle Rock and Shell Knob communities. The meals are personally-prepared by Rebekah McGowen, the center's Head Cook, Assistant Cook Rita Warner and volunteers.

"In Golden and Eagle Rock, all we deliver is frozen meals, because we can't keep the temperature what it should be due to the distance," Patterson said. "Most of the time, people will take one hot meal a day, then on weekends, they get two frozen meals if they want them.

"If a person is interested, I will schedule an in-home assessment. Most of the time, people won't call for meals because they are too proud. We ask for a donation of $3.50 per meal, however if you can't afford it, we tell people don't worry about it. We don't want any person to go hungry. That's just a practice we've made."

Patterson said, often times, children of home-bound parents will call to set up the service.

"A lot of kids would rather the bill go to them," she said.

Office Volunteer Janet Horine contributes by keeping operations running smoothly.

"I do all the paperwork for the routes, keep lists updated, give directions, tell how many meals to deliver and submit mileage," she said. "There are nine drivers, kitchen help to pack meals, myself, the cook and assistant cook. It takes about 2-1/2 hours to deliver the meals per each route.

"Sometimes, it takes longer when clients want to talk. A lot of times, this is the only way these people have a connection with the outside world. The drivers take a couple minutes to chit-chat with them and make sure they're safe and everything. They go above and beyond."

Horine said the program is based more on need than finances.

"Maybe they can't stand and prepare meals," she said. "Or, they just got out of surgery."

Volunteer George Meissner delivers 10-12 meals on the Shell Knob route from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, which he has done for the last two years.

"It's an excellent meal," he said. "And, it's a good way to help out in the community."

One client makes hot pads and is originally from the same state he is, so he enjoys chatting if he has time.

"Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time to talk," he said. "For instance, I had a new home recently I couldn't find, so all the meals were delivered half an hour late, so I just give them a nice greeting."

Meissner said sometimes, clients can come to the door to greet him, but other days cannot due to health conditions.

"Some are not as fortunate as other people," he said. "Those are the ones that are really appreciative."

Everyone knows McGowan, who has been at the center for two years and makes all her meals from scratch.

"We get compliments all the time on the foods, whether it's her baked chicken or her spaghetti and meatballs," Horine said. "She's a great cook."

"Our cook is tremendous," said Jeff Harp, chief publicity officer for the center. "She tries to make sure they get a good variety all the time. She doesn't waste one move in that kitchen."

"I come in early," McGowan said. "I grew up in a restaurant. I enjoy knowing everyone. It's helping the community. We can't do without our volunteers. Some days I start at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. It depends on what I need prepped."

Warner, who has been at the center for a month, just loves to cook.

"We just did a banana cream pie, and today the meal choice is chicken-fried steak or polish sausage," she said. "It helps our community and ensures they get good, quality meals."

"The people who receive these meals appreciate this," Harp said. "It's a personal connection just as much as getting a nutritious meal. A lady on a route called us her lunch-time angels. And she made some fridge magnets. It was something that she could give back. To me, it's little things like that that makes the program such a meaningful outreach.

"The only downside is there's not enough time. When I help out, if I didn't have such a big route, it would be better, because you want to sit down and have a little one-on-one time. We're always looking for drivers or substitute drivers, and they do pay mileage. It's our honor and privilege to meet and serve these individuals. If we can brighten their day, that's great, and the smiles on their faces certainly brightens ours."

For more information on the program, people may call Patterson at 417-858-6952.

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