By Shelia Huffman
The Visiting Nurse’s Association (VNA) Meals on Wheels provides hot, nutritious, freshly prepared meals five days a week to Dallas County residents who can’t provide for themselves due to illness, advanced age or disability. These meals contribute to the overall health and well-being of participating seniors, including those with chronic illnesses that are affected by diet, such as diabetes and heart disease, and frail seniors who are homebound.
Without these meals, many seniors, low income and disabled adults would go hungry.
At 5 a.m. each weekday, more than 5,650 meals are prepared in VNA Haggerty Kitchen (the country’s largest single-site provider of such meals), packaged and delivered to designated pick-up stations where drivers, half of whom are volunteers, are furnished with meals and a route map to get the food to those in need.
The Meals on Wheels Program in Dallas (MOW) was organized in 1957 as a pilot project by the Women’s Council of Dallas County. It was one of the first Meals on Wheels programs in the United States.
In 1973, VNA agreed to assume responsibility for the service, viewing the Meals on Wheels program as a logical extension of home health care and as an advancement of the agency’s mission.
Katheryn Livengood, from Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has been a volunteer driver for the VNA program for nearly that long.
Livengood signed up as a volunteer for the program in 1982 and has been delivering meals to those in need ever since. When asked why she has committed time and energy to the program for the past 36 years, she quickly answered: “I can’t fathom someone not having something to eat. It hurts me.”
Another volunteer, Becky Riggins, said she likes to give back to the community and that this is one little thing one can do. Riggins started as a volunteer driver in 1992 after she retired from her full time job.
Their first stop is a delightful apartment patio decked with a gazillion whimsical wind chimes where volunteers are greeted by Jewels, the German shepherd.
The volunteers continue through the remaining seven stops on the route delivering packaged meals of barbecue riblet, pinto and green beans, roll, gelatin and milk.
Thanks to VNA and people like Livengood and Riggins, who have faithfully helped make the program a success for so many years, many of those who may otherwise have gone hungry are able to sit down to a nutritious meal.
For information on how to become a MOW volunteer, visit vnatexas.org.