Program offers deliverance from want
Johnson County Meals-on-Wheels seeking De Soto volunteer drivers
As chief engineer for an underground cold storage company near Bonner Springs for 40 years before his retirement, Ed Zielinski learned a lot about keeping food cold. Heating it is another matter.
"I'm not much of a cook," Zielinski said. "I burn everything I try. If it weren't for him delivering the meals during the week and my daughter on the weekends, we'd starve."
The "him" is Cliff Lee, a Meals-On-Wheels van driver for the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging's Nutrition Program. Every weekday, Lee delivers warm noon meals to Ed and his wife, Maudetta Zielinski whose health prevents her from cooking.
The Zielinski's home on Edgerton Road is just one of 17 to 18 stops in De Soto and the surrounding rural area Lee said he made Monday through Friday.
"Our vans were set up to serve the rural areas, not the cities," he said. "Most of the cities rely on volunteers. If we could get some volunteers in De Soto, we could expand in the outlying area."
Kelli Wroten, Johnson County Area Agency on Aging volunteer coordinator, would like De Soto to copy the success the Meals-on-Wheels Program has had with volunteer delivery drivers elsewhere in the county. She isn't looking for just one volunteer, but a mix of individuals, service organizations, groups and businesses that will pledge to deliver meals on different days of the week.
"Different volunteers, service organizations, groups or businesses each sign up for a day," she said. "We've had pretty good success getting businesses involved because if they have a team, it would be one hour a month for each person."
Carolyn Mohr, kitchen supervisor for the Johnson County Nutrition Program, said the kitchen she ran in Olathe prepared the 550 Meals-on-Wheels dinners delivered daily in the county. What made the federally funded program unique, she said, was that it was open to all in need of the service.
"Unlike a lot of programs, it's not a money issue," she said. "We've had doctors and lawyers. It's based on need. It's really about trying to help people stay in their homes."
The program offered clients more than a nutritious meal, Wroten said. It allowed volunteers to check on the well being of shut-in clients, she said.
That's especially important in the winter months, Lee said. During his short stays, he can spot obvious heating problems or get help for those in ill health. On several occasions, he has informed Mohr that a client needed medical attention, Lee said.
"A lot of them don't have anybody else visiting them," he said. "I don't know if they really want the meals, or somebody to come check on them."
The visits also give Meals-on-Wheels' shut-in clients an opportunity for daily companionship, Wroten said.
"When we do our profile of home-delivered clients, 17 percent of them that's the only person they see on a daily basis," she said. "It's such a positive experience for a volunteer, because you get that immediate good feeling."
Lee's visits give him something to look forward to, Zielinski said.
"It can get a little lonesome," he said. "It's a nice change of pace."