On any given lunch break, a dozen do gooders are driving around Montpelier and Berlin, Vermont, delivering meals to seniors in need. One of those drivers is National Life employee, Kris Clark. She has a standing lunch date with six to ten people who are always happy to see her.
When she’s not crunching numbers in the corporate actuarial department at National Life Group, Kris Clark is the Meals on Wheels volunteer coordinator for National Life. Kris comments on how she first got involved with Meals on Wheels, “A friend of mine at work, Lorie Rice, was volunteering with Meals on Wheels; I thought I’d give it a try.” That was over 25 years ago.
The route that Kris drives is known as “The National Life Route,” and has been for over 30 years. There are six Meals on Wheels routes throughout Montpelier and Berlin, staffed by volunteers Monday through Friday all year long. But volunteers do more than just deliver lunch; they bring a smile and some welcome conversation. The residents along the route are home-bound seniors and adults with disabilities who “sometimes we’re the only people they see on a given day,” Kris commented.
Kris mentions the friendships she’s enjoyed over the years while volunteering, “For years, there was a couple on the route, Joe and Virginia. They were so friendly, and we would have the best time just catching up. Joe would offer the drivers peppermint patties, insisting we take one. When he passed away, Virginia carried on the tradition.” As serendipity would have it, another man named John on the route, featured in the headline image, carries on the mint tradition, as well as the welcome conversation. Kris points out that this is one of the joys she treasures while volunteering, “Your heart just melts. It makes your day. When I know I’m going to see John, it just makes my day.”
While drivers typically deliver six to ten meals on a given route each day, those add up. Just last year approximately 7,000 meals were delivered by the Meals on Wheels program in the Montpelier area. Over the years, there have been many National Life volunteer drivers involved. “I could not do this without them. They love it as much as I do,” Kris remarked. Current National Life volunteer drivers include: David Augustoni, Tammy Davis, James Hunt and Heather Preis as well as retired National Life employees, Ruth Brown, Linda Gordon and Mitch Osiecki. There are also four other local drivers who volunteer on the route, Nubia Fuller, Maryellen LaPerle, Rosemarie White and Paul Markowitz. And as for Kris’ friend, Lorie, who got her involved with Meals on Wheels over 25 years ago, she’s still volunteering. Kris comments on the strong rapport with the other volunteers, “It’s such a strong network too, if we need to swap days, everyone is there to help each other out.”
At the start of their shift, volunteers make a quick stop at the Senior Center in downtown Montpelier to pick up the meals and their lunch list. The Senior Center is a rush of activity with volunteers serving lunch on site to seniors in the community. Senior Meals Program Manager, Jessica Sanderson, keeps the program running smoothly and makes sure the routes are covered. And covered they are, volunteers make it a point to carve time out of their day to help out. Tammy Davis, comments on her volunteering experience, “There are days when I feel that I should not be taking the time away from my desk to make deliveries, but that feeling vanishes as soon as I see the people. It’s a dose of reality and for me it’s a reset, a true reminder of how a few kind words and a smile can make a big difference in someone’s day.”
When asked what keeps her actively involved and engaged in the program, Kris replied, “I can physically do it. I love doing it. How can you not? I like helping people. When I see how little others have, it makes me realize..how much I have and how much more I can give.”
Have you been looking for ways to serve your community? To learn more about Meals on Wheels, contact your local senior center or council on aging to get involved. New volunteers are always welcome.
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