Wheels roll on in bad weather

Despite the slick roads and frigid temperatures, Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver.
Friday, January 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:13 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The roads may be clear, but slick sidewalks and driveways were a challenge to navigate Thursday as volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program made their rounds.

In the morning, when the temperature remained below 20 degrees, Cherie Campbell picked up four hot meals going to Meals on Wheels clients and set off on her route.

“It’s very slippery out there,” Campbell later told one of her clients, an older man dressed in maroon sweatpants and a T-shirt, as she handed him meals for him and his wife.

Meals on Wheels clients are people who, because of age, disability or illness, need a little extra help getting their meals. The clients are usually unable to clear snow and ice from their driveways and sidewalks.

“I carry salt with me,” said Sehon Williams, a retired U.S. Postal Service employee and lifelong Columbian who has volunteered for 12 years. He sprinkles it on clients’ walkways so he can bring their meals to the door.

Volunteer Owen Jackson said there is one spot on his route that can be troublesome in the ice and snow, because the client’s house rests at the bottom of a hill.

After getting stuck once there, Jackson now plans to park at the top of the hill and make his way down the hill. “I might get bounced around, but at least I’m not stuck at the bottom.”

Jackson, a five-year volunteer, said he got involved with the program because he thought the community needed it.

Marcia Walker, director of the Columbia program, said volunteers and their clients become friends. “The more you deliver to the same people, the more you get to know them,” she said.

Walker said that sometimes on bad-weather days, clients call the office to say, “Don’t let my volunteer come. It’s too icy.” But the volunteers usually go anyway, she said, and she has snow-day drivers in reserve — hardy souls with all-wheel-drive vehicles.

Walker was in the midst of training a new volunteer before she went on her first visit. “You might check the thermostat,” she told the woman. Walker said she tells her volunteers to check that things seem right in the client’s house.

“Delivering meals is part of what we do, but making sure that they’re OK is also a big part of what we do,” she said. Meals on Wheels has emergency contact numbers for its clients so that if volunteers notice a problem, they can contact the family or caregiver.

Williams, the retired postal worker, said, “It’s nice to be able to do something for someone that they can’t do themselves.”

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