Seymour Meals on Wheels still rolling


A Jackson County organization has been keeping the roads hot by delivering nutritious meals to residents for 49 years.

Seymour Meals on Wheels was incorporated in 1974, providing meals to area residents within a 5-mile radius of downtown with service being short or long term.

The meals are prepared onsite at Schneck Medical Center for not only the elderly but those who are homebound.

Examples of Meals on Wheels clients include an elderly couple no longer able to cook or it isn’t safe for them to cook; a spouse has died and the other has never cooked; or a single person who is going to have surgery and needs assistance during recovery.

Meals on Wheels is a standalone nonprofit agency serving all qualified area residents who are unable to provide themselves a basic daily diet because of age, health or ability.

Jane Norman, board president for Meals on Wheels, said they would like to build awareness and educate the community so Meals on Wheels becomes known to all. Their vision is to expand their reach to cover all of Seymour.

Relatively new to Seymour, Norman moved to the city eight years ago after she retired from her job in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Being retired and after caring for my grandson from his birth until he started school here, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity,” she said. “Two years ago, I began driving several times a month for Meals on Wheels and was quickly asked to join the board.”

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the dynamic of things, and the organization lost a handful of long-term volunteers and a few board members. Plus, there was no real activity or outreach happening, including no one willing to step up and lead, Norman said.

She was voted in as president this past January but was a bit concerned her high energy and assertive style might be a bit much, but so far, so good.

“I have an attitude of if we aren’t doing something, if we aren’t moving forward, then we aren’t progressing,” she said.

Norman explained how they pay the nutritional services department at Schneck to prepare the meals, then provide those meals to clients for a charge that is at or below cost, depending on monetary contributions and other entities, such as grants.

Two misconceptions are they are just a senior citizens organization and an organizational part of Schneck.

Norman said like everyone affected, Meals on Wheels lost some momentum exposurewise during COVID, and they are ramping up their efforts to assure everyone is reminded of this service.

“Educating the public, both private and corporate, are high priorities,” she said. “Everyone has family members, friends, coworkers, patients, church members, etc. who could use this assistance.”

Currently, there are three routes with up to 10 stops on each, and the meals are picked up between 11:15 and 11:30 a.m. at the hospital each weekday, except major holidays.

“Wanting to fill the gap of nondelivery for Christmas, I talked with Shawn Malone (owner of The Brooklyn Pizza Co.). No surprise, he will make sure any clients are included in their holiday community meal deliveries,” Norman said, adding Anchor House and First Baptist Church fill the gap for nondelivery for Thanksgiving.

Drivers are provided with a notebook containing all of the information needed, from the customer’s name and address to what to do upon arrival.

“Ring the bell, and if there is no answer, leave the meal in the cooler or maybe go to the back door and knock loudly as the customer is hard of hearing,” Norman said. “All meals are marked with the customer’s name, and the meals are currently provided for a cost of $4.50 for a single hot meal and $7.50 for both a hot and a cold meal.”

Each stop may be for an individual or a couple, meaning volunteers might deliver up to 120 meals each day.

“Once the meals are picked up, it requires only about an hour to deliver an entire route, a very small commitment when you consider the huge effect this has on those waiting for the driver to arrive,” Norman said.

Among the team of more than 70 volunteers are individuals, couples, church groups (Calvary Baptist), schools (St. Ambrose), businesses (Cedar Creek of Seymour) and sororities (Psi Iota) with some having served for more than 30 years, she said.

A secondary benefit of Meals on Wheels is often, the volunteers are the only smile — the only face, really — a customer might see in a given day.

Many have shared the comfort of knowing someone is checking on them daily. One even shared this is the reason she started getting meals, Norman said.

“There is only one part-time employee, which is LuAnn Fisher, program coordinator/treasurer, who manages the financial and legal work of the agency as well as the scheduling of drivers,” Norman said. “While continuing to add to the driver pool, Meals on Wheels remains on the lookout for those who might be interested in serving on the board.”

She said one of the goals is to build a fourth route, preparing for additional customers as they continue efforts to reach out to the public, the medical community and others who may know those who truly need Meals on Wheels. They are striving to have a waiting list of volunteers, not a waiting list of those needing meals.

“Community partners are imperative to the growth and sustainability of Seymour Meals on Wheels, as it isn’t just about volunteer drivers or getting the word out to new customers,” Norman said. “As costs continue to increase, help will come in the form of looking to connect with businesses and individuals interested in helping maintain costs to the customer.”

She said one way is sponsorships, such as a company wanting to supply all of the containers for the hot meals or maybe a local business is willing to do the printing for the agency. Other sponsorships might be someone willing to help with legal paperwork.

“There are so many ways to work together to avoid meal price increases, which are expected from the hospital by January,” Norman said.

Next year will be Meals on Wheels’ 50th year serving the residents of Seymour. The volunteers and board members are excited about opportunities to celebrate this major accomplishment and look forward to everyone celebrating with them, and there are a couple of neat things in the works, Norman said.

Volunteer driver Darci Underwood is the sales director at Cedar Creek of Seymour, an assisted living facility.

“We got involved with Meals on Wheels about six months ago to focus on outreach efforts in Seymour,” Underwood said. “The unexpected part of delivering meals is the relationships that you make with the program participants.”

She is serving on the board of Meals on Wheels and enjoying talking about the wonderful organization wherever she goes in the community.

“The joy, satisfaction and service that is given and received from volunteering for Meals on Wheels has been a welcome addition to our business,” Underwood said.

Lesley Kendall, nutritional services at Schneck, said as a registered dietitian, Seymour Meals on Wheels is vital for the health of the community.

“Low-cost, nutritionally balanced meals are provided that might otherwise be hard to prepare for a variety of reasons,” Kendall said. “Therapeutic diets, such as low-fat or low-sodium options, are available.”

She said many people live alone or do not have family nearby, and utilizing Seymour Meals on Wheels provides not only nutrition but can increase the safety for individuals who need some help to live independently and longer at home.

“I think clients look forward to their meals and are always so grateful when they are delivered,” Kendall said.

Client June Hines said Meals on Wheels is a wonderful service, and the drivers are always kind and helpful.

Past client Jim Fey said he used to get meals twice each week.

“They were always on time, and I really appreciated them,” Fey said. “I would still be getting them if I had not had to move into assisted living.”

Client Mary Stevens said she appreciates all the organization does with the meals and the friendly people.

Karen Rogers, daughter of a client, said she and her siblings and parents are grateful for the Meals on Wheels program.

“Not only do they provide a balanced meal to our parents, but if for some reason they don’t answer the door, they notify a family member,” Rogers said. “The volunteers that deliver the meals do so with smiles and an encouraging word.”

For information about Meals on Wheels, contact Norman at 704-408-6837, Fisher at 812-216-2844 or Kendall at 812-522-0148.

Seymour Meals on Wheels contacts

Jane Norman, board president, 704-408-6837, [email protected]

LuAnn Fisher, program coordinator, 812-216-2844, [email protected]

Lesley Kendall, nutritional services, 812-522-0148, [email protected]

At a glance

Meals on Wheels of Seymour delivers hot, nutritious meals, prepared onsite at Schneck Medical Center, to the elderly and homebound five days a week.

Meals can be customized based on dietary needs and doctor’s orders.

Meals are provided at a minimum cost — $4.50 for a single hot meal and $7.50 for both a hot and a cold meal

Volunteers deliver 52 weeks a year rain or shine.

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