Gayle Seibel can’t remember exactly how she began delivering meals for the McPherson Meals on Wheels organization. But the volunteer and current board member can tell you why she keeps helping out.

Gayle Seibel can’t remember exactly how she began delivering meals for the McPherson Meals on Wheels organization. But the volunteer and current board member can tell you why she keeps helping out.
“When I have a bad day at the office, sometimes just seeing these people smile makes my day better,” Seibel said.
Seibel is one of a couple dozen dedicated program volunteers that donate their lunch hours to delivering meals to the elderly and home-bound. But as McPherson’s population continues to age, the need  continues to grow. The organization is currently searching for new volunteers to deliver meals and carry on a vital community service.

Hot Meal
Meals on Wheels delivers hot, nutritionally balanced meals seven days week to those in need, regardless of income. The organization uses a sliding scale according to the client’s income but no one is denied service because they cannot pay. The program serves about 60 people a day but Grennan consistently keeps names on a waiting list.
Meal recipients are divided into six routes that are organized by location and part of town. A route driver is responsible for delivering six to 10 meals per day. The routes take no more than an hour to complete and seasoned drivers, like Seibel, can deliver her meals in 30 minutes.
“I can have my meals delivered, the trays dropped off at the hospital and still have time to pick up lunch to eat at my desk,” she said.
Grennan said she could and would like to add a seventh route, which would allow the organization to serve another 10 people.
Route drivers are not paid and with gas prices reaching historic highs, Grennan said she understands the financial pressures. But routes are organized to make delivery as efficient as possible.
“Most routes are an average of three miles long from leaving the hospital with meals until you return to the hospital with the empty trays from the day before,” Grennan said. “A couple of the routes are between one and two miles in length.  Many of us would use more gas if we go out to dine or shop.”  
The not-for-profit organization partners with Memorial Hospital’s food service program for meals. The hospital’s kitchen prepares hot, fresh meals that are catered to meet an individual’s dietary needs.
The organization is also a United Way partner and through its partnership with the Feinstein Foundation, is working to raise money, which will be matched by Allen Shawn Feinstein of Cranston, R.I. This is the 10th year that Feinstein has pledged to donate $1 million to campaigns that fight hunger across the U.S. His $1 million will be divided among all agencies in the country reporting their donations proportionately according to the size of their local donations.  
Making Connections
For many meal recipients, the meal and the route driver are the only contact with the outside world they will have that day.
Mike Stoudt has been delivering meals since October 2004. He started delivering as a favor to Grennan, who he attended church with, but enjoyed the work and has kept coming back. Stoudt, who works evenings, volunteers once a week and one Saturday each month. While waiting at the hospital to pick up his meals and start his route Friday, Stoudt admits he enjoys seeing the clients, probably as much as they enjoy visiting with him.
“They expect me,” he said. “I think most are happy to see me.”
Before leaving the hospital Friday, Seibel packs an extra cupcake, it’s not on the menu but a surprise for one of the organization’s longtime clients who turned 95 years old today.
It’s little things, like a cupcake and birthday candle, a quick hello or a short chat, that can make a client’s day Grennan said. Many don’t have consistent contact with neighbors, family and friends and the Meals on Wheels route driver could easily be the only person they see all day.
Les Pursifull is wheelchair-bound and enjoys the daily visits from the delivery volunteers. He often hands out candy and he’s garnered a reputation among those in the program as the candy man.
“He’s a funny guy,” Grennan said. “He always makes me laugh.”
Grennan said having regular volunteers on different routes also provides a consistent, watchful eye for aging clients.
“If we visit with someone that doesn’t look very good or feel very good, we’ll call their emergency contact and just mention that they might need a visit,” Grennan said.  

Help Needed
With demand constant, Grennan said volunteers are desperately needed. Donations are also important right now as they will go toward the Feinstein Foundation challenge.
For more information, to volunteer or to make a donation, contact Grennan at 241-5238. Contributions can be sent to Meals on Wheels of McPherson, Inc. at 915 N. Walnut, McPherson, KS 67460