‘You really find out how wonderful God is’: Meals on Wheels thanks its longtime volunteers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 11, 2018

SALISBURY — Colleen Weant enjoys those days — the second, fourth and fifth Thursdays of each month — when it’s her turn to deliver Meals on Wheels.

Even though she’s 91, Weant carries the lunches from the cooler in the car to the front or side doors of homes, where she greets and sometimes has long conversations with the participants.

The route she and her driver, 80-year-old Pete Kluttz, cover is on the Rowan County side of Kannapolis, and the number of places they visit has varied widely through the years — as many as 12, as few as six.

Weant says she just likes meeting new people when she can, hearing about their lives and some of the hardships they’re dealing with.

“You really find out how wonderful God is,” she says of the Meals on Wheels experience.

Weant was among many longtime volunteers honored Wednesday at a Meals on Wheels appreciation luncheon hosted by board member Kay Coltrain. It recognized volunteers with 25 years or more of service, along with those still volunteering in their 90s.

J.C. Ritchie, 93, and Ruth Elium, 91, joined Weant for a few photographs after lunch. John Rink could not attend the luncheon, but he’s over 90 and still delivering meals.

“We have two other 90-plus-year-olds that just retired in the past few months, Virginia Graves and Robert Harkrader,” Executive Director Cindy B. Fink said, but they also could not make the lunch.

Annie Bates, Golda Harrington and Sarah Klein were among those whose volunteer work with Meals on Wheels pretty much goes back to the organization’s founding in Rowan County in the 1970s.

Fink said the luncheon invited 40 people who represented 1,121 years of volunteerism among them. More specifically, there are 34 volunteers who have between 25 and 42 years of service and together account for 1,053 years.

Scheduled through St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in China Grove, Weant has been delivering Meals on Wheels for 24 years, starting out with her late husband, Herman. Now she and Kluttz are their own dynamic duo.

Weant said their conversations in the car cover just about everything. Weant becomes the most upset when they realize they are no longer stopping at the house of a longtime client — and they don’t know why.

What happened?

“You get attached to them, really,” Weant said. “I love Meals on Wheels. You really meet some wonderful people.”

Kluttz and Weant usually go to a China Grove restaurant for lunch after they have covered their route. Kluttz said he has the waitresses at places such as Gary’s, Porky’s, Jimmy’s and Family House laughing because he usually introduces Weant as his girlfriend.

Then it’s not long before Pete’s wife, Kay Kluttz, walks in and joins them.

“And yes,” Pete will say, “this is my wife.”

Weant protested at her being characterized as a girlfriend.

“I feel more like it’s ‘Grandma,'” she said. “… Like I said, I’ve known him since before he was even born. Our parents were friends.”

Bates is one of the stalwarts of Meals on Wheels of Rowan Inc., as both a volunteer through Trinity Presbyterian Church and as a longtime board member.

Bates said three generations of her family are now helping with Meals on Wheels.

The leadership of the organization often considers Bates the go-to person when something has to get done or if an emergency fill-in is needed.

Bates most recently has been driving a courier route to the St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church meal pick-up site near High Rock Lake.

Harrington said she first became involved with Meals on Wheels through the Junior Woman’s Club, then soon was the Meals on Wheels coordinator for First Baptist Church, before Graves took over.

Klein has served Meals on Wheels as part of a team from Milford Hills Methodist Church.

Time and again Wednesday, volunteers told of the rewards Meals on Wheels offers for them, beyond providing a hot meal. They sometimes become good friends with the participants.

They sometimes might be the first on the scene when emergency medical help is needed. They might help participants with doctor appointments or, in one volunteer’s case, take time to read through a monthly menu and make food selections with a blind participant.

Connie Basinger, president of the Meals on Wheels board, said a long-serving Food Lion team has virtually adopted a couple on its route in the Statesville Boulevard area.

After the recent rains associated with Hurricane Florence, the Food Lion group picked up tree limbs in the couple’s yard, mowed several times and bought them a new cooler.

“I hear all kinds of stories,” Basinger said. “It is more than just lunch. It’s so much more than just lunch.”

Another Meals on Wheels board member on hand Wednesday were Samantha Dagenhart, along with Program Director Sandy Combs and volunteer staff member Carol McNeely.

On the rainy day, Thomas Vick provided a shuttle service to the Coltrain home from the Country Club of Salisbury parking lot.

Besides being recognized as a volunteer in her 90s, Ruth Elium also received her 10-year pin Wednesday. She is part of the Meals on Wheels volunteers from Central United Methodist Church in Spencer.

Colleen Weant keeps busy beyond her Meals on Wheels duties. She leads a senior Sunday School class at St. Mark’s Lutheran, and she still sings in the church choir, though she threatened to quit.

A fellow choir member told her, “You can’t quit; you’re our rock.”

Weant remembers a time when she thought maybe she should stop delivering Meals on Wheels to take care of her mother. But her mother (who lived to age 93) told her to keep going, because Colleen might be the only person some of the participants saw each day.

“God always has his hands in things,” Weant said. “It’s amazing what God can do.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.