COLUMBIA — Dale and Carol Sechler have worked out a system: he is the navigator, and she takes care of the deliveries.
Every Wednesday, the couple sets aside one hour to bring hot lunches to six homes in the Columbia area as volunteers for Meals on Wheels.
Retired and in their 80s, the Sechlers have been working with the organization for 15 years.
"Carol, she's the one that goes in and does all the talking. I'm just the chauffeur," said Dale Sechler, smiling at his wife.
The Sechlers have been on the same route since March, and they know each of their client's habits.
Some simply take their meals at the door and say thanks. Others invite them in for a chat. A few have trouble getting to the door right away.
All of them benefit from a program that provides one guaranteed meal a day.
"Everybody's gotta eat," Dale said, jokingly. "It's a bad habit we have."
Meals on Wheels accepted a $25,000 donation on Thursday that will not only ensure that free meals go to those in need but also provide evening and weekend meals for clients.
The donation from the Walmart Foundation is part of the new Missouri State Giving Program. Meals on Wheels is the first organization in Columbia to be selected, said Marcia Walker, director of Meals on Wheels.
The meals program has been delivering food to Columbia residents for more than 37 years. Volunteers transport between 120 and 150 meals a day to elderly and disabled residents who cannot prepare meals for themselves.
After Thursday's presentation, 17 Walmart employees rode along with volunteers on their weekly routes.
"We wanted them to meet the clients and see how the money is being used," Walker said.
Ed Hohlt, who manages the Walmart on Grindstone Parkway, said he enjoyed helping with Thursday's deliveries. He said he recommends the program to anyone looking to help out in the community and sees it as a worthwhile cause.
"Our volunteers really get to know clients," Walker said. "A lot of times they get to know their families, too. Everyone is a person to us, not just an address on a route."
Volunteer Lindsey Tegeler said she loves the chance to interact with the people on her route.
"My route usually takes less than an hour," Tegeler said. "I like to make it last longer so I can catch up with the people on my route."
When she knocks on the door of one client, she is usually greeted with a hug and a smile. They talk about school, since Tegeler is in her fifth year in MU's Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound Program. They talk about their families and their weekend plans, too.
"A lot of people don't just want meals, they want the conversation, too," Tegeler said.