The organization also provides a lifeline of support for the area's homebound seniors.

Steve Carroll does not want publicity, but Hannibal Nutrition Center Executive Director Debbie Catlett wants the public to know how much he does for some of the homebound people receiving delivered meals.

For about 15 years, Carroll has anonymously donated Christmas presents for people on the meal delivery routes who have no local relatives, Catlett said. She calls this the “Santa’s angels” program.

Carroll has agreed to have his name used, in hopes that others will do something similar for people in their cities.

“I was really excited about our drivers who identify seniors who don’t have anybody coming home for Christmas,” Catlett said. “Steve Carroll, a former state representative, does not ask for any recognition. He does it all on his own, after our drivers identify people who could use a gift. His wife, Beth, and daughter, Victoria, helped this year.”

The Christmas gifts are “whatever we write down that person needs to help them have a better life,” Catlett continued. “Steve buys gifts and wraps them. And most get a fresh food basket. Our drivers get to deliver those gifts.”

Catlett added that nutrition center drivers do not just deliver meals but provide a vital service by making sure each recipient is OK.

“They live alone, and there is not someone to check on them on a daily basis. It’s a blessing we get to do what we do,” Catlett added. “These meals are more than just a meal. We serve them hot meals and companionship Monday through Friday, and we have frozen meals for the weekend, if they can’t cook for themselves. … The frozen meals are made here, and we have a heat sealing machine, so they can stay frozen for six months.”

The frozen meals go to about 150 of the 350 people receiving home-delivered meals.

The importance of the drivers checking on people before leaving was illustrated the week of Dec. 19, Catlett said.

“We had two people who had fallen and couldn’t get up. One had fallen at 2 a.m., and we got to her at 10:30 a.m. I don’t know how long she would have lain there if we had not come with a meal. She had just lost her balance. She is doing good,” she said. “We always notify the next of kin or a friend and say, ‘You need to come check on her.’”

A man fell last week, and the Nutrition Center called 911 for him.

“He was admitted to the hospital and is still in the hospital. He had just received a fried chicken dinner, and he insisted on taking it in the ambulance and eating it in the emergency room before being admitted to his hospital room,” Catlett continued.

Anyone interested in ordering the delivered meals may contact the nutrition center. Some people are hesitant at first, Catlett said, but “the family can give it to them at first, and almost always once they start the meals, they look forward to them.”

When meals are started, the recipient provides a contact sheet with details about contacting a relative or friend if need be. “We ask for three or four contacts,” Catlett said, “and we say, ‘give us a friend in town as well.’”

The drivers do not ever leave before seeing the person and verifying he or she is OK, she said. “If the driver can’t see them, we immediately start calling their contacts.”

People over age 60 may donate $4 for each meal, but “no one is denied a meal because they can’t pay,” Catlett said. Anyone over age 64, homebound and on Medicaid receives meals paid by Medicaid.

Meals also are served on weekdays at the nutrition center, where people under age 60 pay $6 and age 60 or over pay $4.

The nutrition center has begun accepting donations for its annual auction, which will be on Saturday, Feb. l1, at the Quality Inn and Suites. Anyone with new items, collector’s items or antiques to be auctioned may drop them off at the nutrition center at 219 S. 10th St. in Hannibal.

Reach reporter Bev Darr at bev.darr@courierpost.com.