Betty Thompson of Decatur is not your typical Meals on Wheels client. Yes, she does receive the meals. Yes, it is on a regular basis, and yes, she is very appreciative of the service. But what sets Betty apart from the other recipients is that Betty was once a volunteer for the program, making those delicious and healthy deliveries herself.
“I actually delivered the meals for 15 years,” Betty says. “It makes me appreciative of the meals even more that way.”
When she was in her 50s, Betty began volunteering for Meals on Wheels with her church group in Decatur. The program kept her busy for the next decade, plus a few more years.
“I really enjoyed it. I liked talking to all the people I took meals to and getting to know them,” Betty says. “It was a nice way to get out of the house and I wish I was still able to deliver the meals.”
Betty eventually underwent knee replacement surgery, which limited her mobility enough that she could no longer deliver meals. Now on the opposite side of the door and almost twenty years later, Betty, 84, still enjoys the relationship that develops between client and volunteer.
“The delivery people all seem so concerned about our welfare. I think it’s a wonderful service they do and I make sure to tell them how thankful I am every day,” Betty says about the volunteers that bring her and her husband, Al, 88, lunch every day.
Just like Betty, Al is also unlike your average Meals on Wheels client. He not only receives the meals graciously every day, but through his own efforts, Al tries to return the favor. As a retiree from Caterpillar, Al found himself with a lot of time on his hands. When Betty began taking paint lessons, Al began to dabble in woodworking. After years of practice, Al honed his talent and built items for Betty to paint; like shelves and knick knacks to adorn their house. However, he saves the extra-special pieces to give to his Meals on Wheels friends.
“Last Christmas, Al whittled a nativity scene of Mary and Joseph and a stable and handed that out to the volunteers,” Betty said. “I could tell they really appreciated it.”
Catholic Charities employee Regan Jahns was one of the lucky recipients of a woodworking creation by Al.
“It was nice to get something. I have it hanging on my office wall,” Jahns’ says in regard to a cross Al made for her. “I think Al and Betty are very thankful of the service they receive and feel a need to give something back in return.”
Like many seniors, Betty and Al say that without the program, they wouldn’t have the same life at all. Serving lunch to homebound seniors Monday through Friday, Meals on Wheels not only provides nutritious meals, but also helps seniors maintain their independence.
“We are so thankful for what they do. If it wasn’t for Meals on Wheels, I know Al and I wouldn’t be able to live alone together anymore,” Betty says. “If there was anything we could do in return for Catholic Charities for all that they’ve done for us, we would.”
After all that Betty and Al have done for the Meals on Wheels program, it would almost be more appropriate to thank them. Perhaps by serving more of their favorite dishes?
“All of the food is pretty good, but I really like their meatloaf. That’s very good,” said Betty. “The beef and noodles are also one of our favorites. But we don’t care for the rice much!”