Providing a bright spot in the day

Imagine yourself alone, friends and family are all working or out of town or perhaps passed on. You are physically or mentally disabled and unable to shop for food, let alone cook a meal for yourself. Perhaps you have just been in the hospital for a period of time, are off work for six weeks and live alone.

How do you cope?

You enroll in Trumbull County Mobile Meals.

I first learned of this service through a friend of ours, Ron Gordon, who retired a few years ago. Ron had decided that, after working shifts for years, he wanted to volunteer to reconnect with the community. He considered several opportunities, all of which helped people, but settled on Trumbull Mobile Meals.

Trumbull Mobile Meals is a community service that brings hot meals to people who are unable to make or buy them for themselves for a nominal fee. For those who qualify, financial assistance is available.

Established in 1970 by the women of the Trumbull County Medical Society Alliance, it serves people on 32 routes in 25 communities covering most of Trumbull County. This service operates with an average of 200 volunteer employees and six full-time staff serving approximately 315 clients Monday through Friday, with weekend meals available.

Each meal is delivered ready to eat – usually one hot meal and one cold meal. The cold meal is meant to be refrigerated for consumption at the dinner hour.

Trumbull County Mobile Meals offers regular diets and special diets. All meals are delivered directly to the home. Drivers do a quick assessment of the home, chat a moment or two, make sure the client can reach everything needed to enjoy the meal, and then the driver is off to the next client. Routes can include up to 30 clients a day. Not all volunteer drivers work every day, sometimes they job-share their routes.

Ron told me that once he started to deliver meals, he was hooked. ”We make a difference in someone’s life every day,” he said. ”You come away feeling that you have done something good.” He also complemented the other volunteers and ”wonderful staff” who make it a joy to come to serve.

This past Christmas season, volunteers made sure that everyone on their routes received something for Christmas. It may have been a small bag of candy, sugar-free for diabetics, or a lovely Christmas card. One volunteer went so far as to sew placemats for each of her clients and another made potholders.

Drivers are given a list of names of the people they will deliver to, a list of their medications and a name of a next-of-kin to call, if necessary. Ron said that one client of his was always reading the Tribune NASCAR columns. Ron made it a point to learn more about NASCAR so they would have something to chat about while he delivered this person’s meals.

Although drivers cannot spend much time with each client, they make an effort to brighten that person’s day, just by being there. On average Trumbull Mobile Meals delivers 125,000 meals a year, with drivers logging approximately 85,000 miles or one-and-one-half times around the world.

Not every volunteer is a driver. There are as many as 50 who are responsible for packing the meals, making sure that dietary restrictions are honored, and that each delivery is correct. This is a vitally important job and is overseen by registered dieticians.

Sandy Matthews, CEO of Trumbull Mobile Meals, cites the Senior Levy that was recently passed.

”Our goal is to help people stay in their homes for as long as possible,” she said. ”The passage of the levy has helped our funding so that we can better meet our motto that ‘no person go hungry in the community.’ ”

The agency is also partially funded by the United Way. It has also received financial help from Huntington Banks, Subaru of America and Thom Duma Jewelers.

”You become attached to the people on your route,” Ron said. ”I visit some folks who have no one and it makes me grateful to be able to come home to my family.”

O’Connor is a Brookfield resident. Email her at