For the last 45 years, Aberdeen volunteers have delivered special diet meals as Meals on Wheels to seniors and anyone who may be struggling because of health or mobility issues. The program is run from the Senior Center in partnership with Avera St. Luke’s.
The Senior Center’s director Jackie Witlock and activities coordinator Laura Latt work together to organize volunteers, recipients, and meals for the program. Meals on Wheels has one staff member packaging and organizing meals cooked by Avera staff.
Then, the 60 volunteers’ mission is to deliver the meals to community members. In Aberdeen, meals roll from Avera St. Luke’s to the tables of between 70 and 90 senior citizens each day.
The volunteers’ visits also act as wellness checks, so seniors can feel safe that someone will always drop by to check on them. “The best benefit is having face-to-face contact with a person every day,” said Jackie, who’s also been delivering meals for six years.
Those interested in getting involved can call the Senior Center at 605-626-3330.
A Man Of The Community: George P. Sullivan
George P. Sullivan drives his car from Avera to the east quarter of town around 11:00 AM each Tuesday. He waves and honks to friends as he goes along. In the back seat are a bag of hot food and a bag of cold food prepared by staff at Avera specific to each client’s dietary needs. But people don’t need to stay in the hospital to get those carefully prepared meals because George brings the food right to their doorsteps.
George is just trying his best to help out in Aberdeen. So, when Jackie asked him to deliver meals around town, his answer was a resounding ‘yes.’ “He was retired, very outgoing, and liked to keep busy,” Jackie said. George wakes up each morning to a newspaper on his doorstep. As he skims the names in each article, he knows almost everyone. He likes that. Living in a small community has given George the chance to volunteer for everything from the film festival to the state chili contest.
Once he knocks on the door, George exchanges a special meal and a kind “hello” to the same senior citizens he sees every week. While he loves seeing Aberdeen residents smile at their delivery, he said he doesn’t volunteer with hopes for thank-yous. “If you’re in it for the gratification, you’re really losing out on what the whole concept is,” he said. George has been delivering Meals on Wheels for more than three years at only the request of a friend, and in doing so, he continues to support the tight-knit community he loves.
10 Years On A Roll: Glenn Denning
For Glenn Denning, it’s all about the friendly chatter with each person that he delivers to. Sometimes he just has to say, “I gotta go because my food’s getting cold,” and that keeps him moving along his route. Reaching his last stop, he would visit with the man living there for up to half an hour.
Jackie noted that Glenn’s wife, who’s since passed, used to receive Meals on Wheels. “It’s so rewarding seeing somebody that used the program come back and then volunteer,” Jackie said. Retirement brought plenty of free time for Glenn, so when he heard a request at church to ride along with Meals on Wheels, he didn’t refuse. Now, he delivers with a driver and friend from church, Lois Chapin. July 2020 marked Glenn’s 10th year of being a dependable volunteer.
Glenn’s reliability means he’s always on time and makes sure the right meals go to the right people. A couple of times, he returned from his route and found the south route’s packages still there because of a mix-up in scheduling. He climbed back into the car and delivered the second route too.
Over the last decade, Glenn’s route has changed as different people need help from Meals on Wheels. Glenn takes his weekly visits as an opportunity to check in with the people about their health and well-being. “Sometimes they don’t see anybody else the rest of the day,” Glenn said. He knows the program is essential for people who can no longer drive or cook for themselves. When Glenn volunteers, the name on each meal is not just a label but a friend who needs that exact dinner.
Delivering Together: Glen and Marcy Opp
Marcy Opp recalled delivering for Meals on Wheels to a lady with flower pots in full bloom all over her living room. The pair of master gardeners would connect over gardening techniques and their families.
Glen Opp remembered bringing dinner to a WWII veteran who gave him deep insights about America today. Those friendships characterize Meals on Wheels for Glen and Marcy.
For the past year, the married couple of 47 years has delivered Meals on Wheels together. The high school sweethearts say their teamwork and quality time have only grown as they drive meals to the south side of town each Tuesday. The Opps’ two sons were always encouraged to interact with the elderly and volunteer their time to help others. And their six young grandchildren are likely to do the same. “We were both brought up that way,” Marcy said, “and passed it on to our children and grandchildren.”
Marcy hops in the passenger seat with the master list of about 20 meals, and Glen gets behind the wheel. At the same time, as social distancing procedures are vital for safety, the two friendly deliverers are disappointed they can no longer chat with people as they drop off meals.
Jackie said, “They’re just so caring and genuine. The people that they meet, everybody says, ‘Oh, they’re the nicest couple.’”
The Opps are happy to go above and beyond for the people they help. For a Vietnam veteran who had trouble navigating snowy sidewalks in his wheelchair, that meant Glen and Marcy were happy to shovel the sidewalk. Friendly connections like that inspire them to continue volunteering and to share the joy of giving with their own family.