PARIS, Mo. — This year, Thanksgiving looked different for many families.
Instead of large family gatherings, individuals stayed home and didn’t have the number of relatives or friends to celebrate with as normal. For many, this felt isolating.
That isolating feeling is one that many seniors who live at home experience not only due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but on a regular basis.
However, for many senior citizens a smiling face, a hot meal and a quick conversation can be found most days when volunteers from a local senior center with a Meals on Wheels program come deliver a meal.
United Way of the Mark Twain Area is providing monthly funding through the 2020-21 Be A Hero Campaign to the Paris Senior Center, Shelby County Senior Center and the Monroe City Senior Nutrition Center. Each of these centers has a Meals on Wheels program that provides seniors in their various communities with a hot meal Monday through Friday delivered to the door by volunteers.
Forrest Gossett, the editor of the Salt River Journal and campaign chairman for the 2020-21 United Way Be a Hero Campaign, volunteers each Wednesday to deliver meals to seniors in rural Monroe County from the Paris Senior Center.
On Wednesdays he pulls up in his personal car, grabs the coolers with meals — in this case the insulated coolers keep the meals hot — and heads out for his 60 plus mile round trip to deliver meals to seniors living in rural parts of Monroe County.
“Feeding people is very important to me,” said Gossett, who has volunteered for three years driving this same route delivering meals. “This is the most rewarding thing I have done as a volunteer.”
Gossett looks forward to his conversations with the clients. He has developed a strong relationship with many of the clients. He looks forward to visiting and talking about family members, some of the clients’ trinkets, learning about their younger days, and more. At each stop on the Meals on Wheels route, Gossett, takes time to visit, ensure the client is safe and healthy, and get to know them.
For many of the clients who live in rural areas, their Meals on Wheels driver is the only person they see during the day. However, that service lets people who don’t want to be anywhere else keep living in their homes. The Meals on Wheels program is a crucial support in clients’ lives.
“The Meals on Wheels Program is transformational,” Gossett said. “That might be hard to believe, but this is one of the last lines of defense between staying at home and going to the nursing home.”
Though the Meals on Wheels program is supposed to be beneficial for the clients, Gossett knows it has been extraordinarily beneficial and rewarding for him. He has developed friendships with many of the clients and looks forward to his weekly visits. The clients have a special place in his heart.
“They are like members of my family,” he said.
United Way’s financial support is crucial to each of the senior centers and the hundreds of clients they serve in the area. Without United Way funding, the centers would have to significantly cut back services. To ensure these organizations have the financial support they need, individuals are encouraged to give to the United Way’s annual campaign. Gifts may be mailed to PO Box 81 Hannibal, Mo 63401, give online at http://unitedwaymta.org. Individuals can also text the word ‘TUESDAY’ to 26989 for prompts to give.