It took a little prompting to get Jim Meyer involved with Meals on Wheels, but once he came onboard he was sold on the agency’s mission and purpose.
Meyer was urged to join the Meals on Wheels board by his wife, Wanda, after the death of board member Mary Fingland in 2005. The Meyers are members of Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church, which Fingland also attended. Up to that point, Wanda had been making deliveries for Meals on Wheels on occasion but Jim, a Vietnam veteran who owned and operated a gas and auto service station in Sedalia, was not able to break free to make the midday deliveries.
Today, as a retiree, Meyer joins his church group to make deliveries a couple of times each year. As the board’s vice president, however, he occasionally gets pressed into service as an emergency driver when those who signed up are unable to fulfill their commitment.
“If they haven’t got enough, they call me and I fill in,” he said.
Meals on Wheels typically delivers between 1,500 and 1,700 meals each month to local clients; Meyer said the peak was about 1,900 meals one month. While Meals on Wheels is an agency of United Way of Pettis County, it receives no state or federal funding for its efforts. Many clients – Meyer said some months it is as high as 50% – are unable to pay for the service. To ensure those who need a hot meal each day are served, the agency turns to fundraisers to cover its costs; its two bigger ones are a golf tournament in June and a ham-and-beans dinner in March.
“These people, sometimes this is the only meal they will get,” said Meyer, who noted the meal is “a pretty good portion” so many clients will have some of it for lunch, when it is delivered, and save the rest for dinner.
“It’s really a help for them,” he said.
There are five routes, each including 15 to 20 stops, and Meyer estimated it takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete a route.
“The people themselves who we deliver to, it is not really the meal that they are interested in. If we could stay there and talk with them for a while, they would be really interested in that,” Meyer said. “They love the company.”
Janice Engles, secretary/treasurer of the board, said Meals on Wheels serves a different clientele than the Sedalia Senior Center, since Meals on Wheels has no age requirement and most of its clients are homebound or disabled in some way, or it is not safe for them to cook.
“This is an extremely valuable service for this community,” she said.
Engles also sees Meyer as extremely valuable to Meals on Wheels.
“He’s in and out of here all the time. He is just our go-to guy and with his experience … You can’t put a price on that,” she said. “Jim does everything for us. He fixes something if it’s broken, he delivers meals. … His official role (as vice president) is to fill in if the president is not there; his unofficial role is everything you can name. He is very valuable to our program.”
Meyer deflects the praise and prefers to focus on the agency and those it serves. His connection with Meals on Wheels “is very fulfilling,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to deliver to these people.”