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30 years and counting Volunteers have been with Meals on Wheels program from the beginning

By Steve Huffman

Salisbury Post

Thirty years ago, someone approached Lois Carter at her church, St. John’s Lutheran, and asked if she was interesting in being a Meals on Wheels volunteer.

Meals on Wheels delivers lunches on a daily basis to homebound individuals. The organization depends on volunteers for deliveries.

Carter agreed and, today, three decades later, is still serving as a Meals on Wheels volunteer. She’s one of four individuals who have delivered continuously since the organization’s founding in Rowan County.

In addition to Carter, the other volunteers who have served Meals on Wheels for all of its 30 years are Helen Hager, Katherine Hall and Charles Connor.

“It’s just a good feeling you get,” Carter said of the satisfaction that’s derived from her work. “Some, they really like for you to stop and chat. I have a feeling that, sometimes, we’re the only person they see all day.”

Earlier in her life, Carter, 80, was a stay-at-home mom to four children. Now, she and her husband, Paul, are enjoying retirement.

Carter said the time commitment for Meals on Wheels isn’t excessive. She delivers just once a month — the second Wednesday of every month.

Meals on Wheels volunteers usually work in pairs. Carter said she’s had several partners over the years. Her current partner is her daughter, Carol McNeely.

“If it snows or is icy, they have someone who delivers for us,” Carter said. “Other than that, rain or shine, we deliver.”

* Helen Hager, 82, also volunteered to serve Meals on Wheels when asked by someone at her church — Salisbury’s First United Methodist.

“They just asked for volunteers and I said I’d do it,” Hager said.

For about 25 years, Hager worked for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, driving a bus that transported special needs children to school in the morning and home in the afternoon. The middle of her day was free, so that made it perfect for Hager to deliver for Meals on Wheels.

She said the opportunity to deliver meals to the homebound has proven a wonderful experience.

“When you greet these people and see the delight on their faces, well, it might be the only smile they have all day,” Hager said.

She said the time constraints of the job don’t let her spend long periods with those to whom she delivers, but Hager said she always pauses long enough to make sure the individual is doing well.

“We always chat,” Hager said. “I don’t just hand them the food and walk away.”

Hager is recently widowed. Her husband, Robert Winston Hager, died a few weeks ago following a long illness.

Still, Hager said she doesn’t have any intention of ending her work as a volunteer with Meals on Wheels.

“I’ll keep doing it as long as I can,” she said. “It’s such a joy, you meet the nicest people. I think it’s a wonderful service.”

Like Carter, Hager said she’s worked with a number of partners while delivering for Meals on Wheels. Her current partner is MaryAnne Lannigham, a fellow member of First United Methodist.

* Katherine Hall is 91, but she still delivers for Meals on Wheels on the first Tuesday of each month. Like Hager, she’s a member of First United Methodist, which is where she was asked to volunteer for Meals on Wheels.

“It’s very rewarding,” Hall said of her work. “It keeps some of these people from needing a nursing home. They are very appreciative.”

Hall taught special education at Wiley School for a number of years and retired in 1975. She became a Meals on Wheels volunteer not long thereafter.

Hall’s husband, who died a little more than four years ago, was Dr. J. Cullen Hall.

Hall said she’s never experienced a situation where she’s been forced to call 911 because of finding one of the people to whom she delivers in a physical dilemma.

But Hall said there have been a handful of times when she’s felt the need to report back about something she saw that she wasn’t comfortable with. “Sometimes, you develop a special affinity for these people,” Hall said. “You want to keep an eye on them.”

* Charles Connor has not only served as a Meals on Wheels volunteer for the past 30 years, he’s also served as the organization’s volunteer coordinator at his church, Trinity Presbyterian, since 1989.

Connor delivers for Meals on Wheels on a month’s fifth Wednesday and fifth Friday. That means that some months he delivers twice and some months he doesn’t deliver at all.

Regardless, Connor said he’s happy to do all he can for the organization.

“I enjoy helping people,” he said.

Connor is retired from the Hefner V.A. Medical Center where he was involved with the rehabilitation of alcoholics and drug addicts. His wife is Greta Connor and his long-time Meals on Wheels partner is Hodge Evans.

Connor said that while making his Meals on Wheels rounds, he’s never found anyone who’s taken a fall or suffered a similar calamity. He did, however, deliver once to a woman whose condition concerned him.

“She was trying to prepare a meal,” Connor recalled. “There was flour all over the stove and countertop.”

Connor reported the situation and was assured that someone would stop by the woman’s house to make sure she wasn’t suffering any long-term problems.

Connor said many of the people to whom he delivers are merely looking for a friendly face.

“Some of them, I’m the only person they see all day,” he said. “They’re anxious to talk and we’ll chat for a bit. But eventually I have to tell ’em I’ve got other meals to deliver.”

* * *

Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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