North Area Meals on Wheels

North Area Meals on Wheels

With decades of volunteer experience, Bob was the perfect man for the job at North Area Meals on Wheels (NAMOW). Several jobs, actually. Bob wears many hats, but everything he does is on behalf of seniors. Bob came to Meals on Wheels with 30 years of experience as a volunteer and an advocate for older adults. An enthusiastic and dedicated leader, Bob is admired and respected among his colleagues and clients. In addition to his role as the NAMOW Board President, Bob is also a cook, a volunteer driver, a director of fundraising and marketing, and the writer of the newsletters. He’s invaluable to the work of Meals on Wheels, and his positive impact has been tremendous.

Bob is highly aware of and involved with the issues that older adults face in Onondaga County. He serves as a volunteer Ombudsman with the New York State Office for Aging, providing support and advocacy. “Some people in long term care facilities don’t have family members close by or anyone to advocate for their rights. They need someone who will protect their rights and interests,” Bob explains. “We as Ombudsmen act as eyes and ears for the Department of Health, as some seniors may be in abusive or neglectful situations and needing an advocate.” Seniors can be confident that Bob has their best interests in mind and that they have someone to rely on in the case that they are residing in a long term care facility.

Bob’s advocacy for seniors led him to North Area Meals on Wheels, an organization that was started many years ago in a church basement by individuals who wanted to help make others’ lives a little easier. Now, as an established nonprofit entity,

NAMOW’s mission statement is to “provide nutritious meals to seniors, homebound, and disabled individuals in northern Onondaga County and to advocate for their overall wellbeing.”

The system and organization of this branch of Meals on Wheels is extraordinary, in large part due to Bob’s contributions. The family of over 250 volunteers at NAMOW seamlessly coordinates 21 delivery routes with teams of all-volunteer drivers and cooks. Their delivery of two meals per day to about 200 clients per day means that the team is putting together and personally delivering over 400 meals per day.

Bob explains that for a handful of clients who receive meals, “The driver is the only person that they’ll see that day.” There is a unique relationship that develops between the volunteers and the clients, as Bob will admit himself. “We as drivers do become attached to our clients. We will keep an eye on them and make sure we see them in person when we deliver a meal. Our drivers are educated and know what to look for; if they see a change in condition they can alert a social service. It allows for us as an organization to be a liaison between the seniors and the resources there to help them.”

Often, drivers will wish to visit with their clients to check in. “We can’t stop to chat for too long, as we need to keep the food at 140 degrees for each delivery!” Bob shares. “But we do sometimes swing back around after our route is over to check in.”

For older adults who are living alone, this visit from Bob or another caring volunteer could make a positive difference in their daily routine.

The impact that this program has on seniors is terrific, but does come with its share of financial challenges. Bob knows that the county could neither afford the services that NAMOW offers, nor provide the caring touch that comes with an all-volunteer organization. Bob has orchestrated various fundraising events, including the popular “Non-Gala,” and the Fall Appeals . He manages the donor base and makes certain all donations are promptly and properly acknowledged. He was instrumental in establishing dessert receptions at senior living communities to heighten the awareness of the Meals on Wheels program. Despite the financial obstacles of running a fully operational non-profit kitchen and delivery service, the business of volunteering is thriving at NAMOW under Bob’s leadership.

Bob serves NAMOW with humility and enthusiasm that inspires the whole staff. Donna Barrett, NAMOW’s Director of Operations, describes Bob’s impact for those that don’t know him:

“Bob is sensitive to the needs of the seniors in our community. He is so enthusiastic about his work and always captures the attention of everyone he’s talking to. We are so lucky to have him.”

Even though volunteering is a way of life for Bob, he knows that a small amount of time given by each volunteer can make a huge difference in working to end senior hunger and creating a close knit community in Onondaga County.