Meals on Wheels and Home Instead have partnered to create the Power of a Knock Volunteer Award. This award celebrates individuals who provide care and connection to the older adults in their communities. Volunteers with compassionate stories from Meals on Wheels organizations across the country were nominated for the award.
“Celebrating these volunteers and supporting their Meals on Wheels programs extends our mission to expand the world’s capacity to care,” said Seth Sternberg, Honor co-founder and CEO. “We hope these stories inspire others to check in with older adults in their communities and foster a sense of connection and purpose.”
On July 20, Barbara and John of Bloomington Meals on Wheels, whose last names were left out of the press release from Meals on Wheels America, were named the award's inaugural co-recipients in the release.
"As a small, local organization it is rare for our volunteers to receive national recognition for the important work they do every day,” said Bloomington Meals on Wheels Executive Director Carrie McHaley. “I'm thrilled that Barb and John's selfless work can be highlighted. The spotlight on their contributions will help to engage additional volunteers.” Bloomington Meals on Wheels shared Barbara and John’s story in an email.
On a stop during their Meals on Wheels route November 15, 2021, Barbara and John arrived at their client’s home. For nearly 70 years, the client, Sylvia, experienced health issues, financial struggles, housing challenges, abuse, and physical disabilities that left her unable to work. On that Monday in November, Barbara and John found out Sylvia’s furnace had stopped working and she had no money to repair it. Barbara put in a few phone calls to have someone service Sylvia’s furnace, which a local company graciously did for no cost.
This was just the beginning of John and Barbara’s journey in ensuring that Sylvia had a safe home. The couple invested thousands of hours of work and support over the past two years to advocate for Sylvia. Along with Sylvia’s furnace, John and Barbara were able to help uncover Sylvia’s home from the items her live-in son had hoarded, replace her roof and decking and help pay for her deductible. Barbara applied to the Housing and Neighborhood Development’s Emergency Home Repair Program on Sylvia’s behalf and started a GoFundme campaign that has raised over $4,000, to address additional needs such as a mice infestation.
“I've always loved helping others, and volunteering for Meals on Wheels has allowed me to continue that into retirement. It feels great to provide a valuable service, while connecting with folks that often have no other interaction with people each day,” said Barbara.
Sylvia said in the release that if John and Barbara had not come into her life, she is certain she would not be alive today. Through the couple’s support, Sylvia is no longer in danger and has a newfound support system and friendship.
“After retirement, we were looking for a meaningful way to volunteer in our community,” John said. “Meals on Wheels is a perfect fit. It's a consistent routine that allows us to interact with others, and in some instances, make lasting friendships.”
Through Barbara and John’s contributions, Home Instead has awarded Bloomington Meals on Wheels $15,000 in their honor.
“The prize donation comes at an important time, as, like many other Meals on Wheels organizations, we are dealing with rapid inflation and are seeing more and more desperately food insecure individuals requesting services," said McHaley.