UW-Parkside Volunteers Keep the Meals Moving
by John Mielke
Let’s set the scene: One person drives, the other makes the delivery. Timing is critical, the merchandise is hot and it needs to stay that way. Is it something out of a James Bond thriller? Not exactly. While it may not be as exciting as 007 with his fast cars, incredible gadgets, and martinis (shaken, not stirred), to many area residents it’s far more important.
Linda Busha (center) and Peg
Lawton (right) deliver lunch to
The “hot” merchandise is food delivered each noon as part of Meals on Wheels, a program run by Kenosha Area Family and Aging Services. According to Jennifer Swartz, social worker for Meals on Wheels, the program provides nutritious meals to homebound persons or persons who cannot cook for themselves.
Linda Busha, UW-Parkside human resources manager, recruits volunteers from the university and compiles the weekly volunteer schedule.
“Ellie Suwalski started the program here in the late ‘80s,” Busha said. “I took over when she retired in 1993. We currently have 14 volunteers and that number as fluctuated over the years. But we’re always looking for more people who would like to help.”
Every Tuesday and Thursday, two volunteers leave campus at 11:15 a.m. and pick up meals from the Parkside Baptist Church. Then it’s off on a route that, some days, includes up to 10 stops.
“One person drives and the other delivers the meals,” Busha said. “And the person delivering the meals usually spends a little time talking to the individual.”
Unfortunately, the daily visit from a Meals on Wheels volunteer may be the only contact some people have with the outside world. Andrea Simpson, director of alumni relations and the annual fund at UW-Parkside is one of the volunteers. Simpson said that in addition to providing meals, volunteers can often report changes in a person’s health to social workers such as Swartz.
Karen Dudley, former UW-Parkside purchasing director, has been a Meals on Wheels volunteer since the early 1990s. As a volunteer, Dudley said she is able to give something back to a program that helped her family. “My folks had Meals on Wheels a couple of different times when, for one reason or another, they couldn’t make their own meals,” she said. “It was such a blessing for them to be able to get a hot meal.”
When Dudley retired from the university in 1998, she kept right on volunteering. She even recruited her husband, Jack, to join her. Jack Dudley was formerly the director of the university’s physical plant.
“The people we take meals to are so grateful,” Karen Dudley said. “They range from being pretty frail, where they can almost not make it to the door, to others who just aren’t able to cook for themselves – but they are always glad to see you.”
Delivering up to 10 meals in about an hour means the volunteers have to stay on schedule – and that’s not always easy. “For many people, having the meals delivered is such a bright spot in their day,” Karen Dudley said. “They would like you to spend the entire afternoon with them.”
For more information about Meals on Wheels, please contact Kenosha Area Family and Aging Services at (262) 658-3508. To join the other UW-Parkside volunteers, please contact Linda Busha at (262) 595-2256.