This annual program sponsored by UAW-Ford recently served 3,500 people in the city of Detroit and beyond
or many people, the end of summer and start of fall is a busy time full of back-to-school preparations and family get-togethers.
But for some senior citizens in Detroit and elsewhere, this time of year is especially lonely. On Labor Day weekend, the only visit some seniors had to look forward to was their Meals on Wheels delivery.
And, thanks to contributions from UAW-Ford, around 3,500 seniors got that this recent holiday weekend. The labor union provided another year of financial support for Labor Day Meals on Wheels along with volunteers to help deliver the food.
“If we don’t deliver those meals, in most cases these seniors won’t get a meal on the holiday,” says Paul Bridgewater, president and CEO of the Detroit Area Agency on Aging, which runs one of the country’s largest Meals on Wheels programs.
Meals were delivered to seniors in need in Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Grosse Pointe and other eastern parts of Wayne County.
“The idea is they don’t go the whole day without seeing or talking to somebody,” Bridgewater says.
About 300 to 400 volunteers helped to deliver meals on Labor Day. It was a brief time commitment on the holiday – and one that always seems to benefit the volunteer as much as the seniors.
“People can enjoy the day, be able to get a meal to a senior and then go home and enjoy the holidays with their own family members,” he says. “It’s a good day.”
Volunteers, many of whom brought along their children or grandchildren to help deliver the meals and spread joy to the seniors, often request the same “route” they had in previous years.
“They want to revisit the people that they had delivered the meal to,” he says. “It’s a dynamic of sharing life experiences. The volunteers walk away with a good feeling.”
The food provided is always “a good, well-rounded meal.” This year’s Labor Day meals included barbecue chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans and cherry pie. “It’s a good meal,” Bridgewater says.
Delivering meals on holidays is an idea that came up about 28 years ago, Bridgewater says, when “we realized that seniors basically don’t get meals on the weekends and holidays.”
“So we developed strategies to raise funds so that, at least on holidays, we would have meals for seniors and have volunteers to make sure seniors have a meal for the holidays,” he says.
Partnering with organizations like UAW-Ford has made all the difference.
“We appreciate the opportunity to have that partnership,” he says. “We’re in our 28th year and the need doesn’t go away.”
Volunteers are always welcome for future holiday deliveries, as well.
“I think when we step back and look at this, this program is more than a meal,” Bridgewater says. “It’s an opportunity to really bring the community together and be able to deliver meals so we can better serve our elderly population in our community.”
And despite talks of budget cuts to Meals on Wheels, Bridgewater believes the program has the support to keep meeting the needs of the community.
“It’s one of those services that I think we need to constantly promote,” he says. “We could not do this without organizations like UAW-Ford. (Vice President) Jimmy Settles recognized the need and stepped up. There are a lot of people out there who won’t let this program go down.”
A meal that matters
No matter how you spent your Labor Day, it probably involved two things: good people and good food.
That’s a big part of what we all look forward to on holidays, isn’t it? And it’s no different for the senior citizens in our community. It’s with that in mind that we at UAW-Ford sponsor a Labor Day delivery of Meals on Wheels.
We know how much our local seniors depend on this program, and we know just how much it means to them to have friendly faces show up to their doors with containers full of delicious food.
We also know this program is more than a meal for our elderly neighbors in Detroit and beyond. It’s a reminder of a community that stands behind them, a conversation with someone who cares, a bright spot on an otherwise quiet weekend.
It’s part of building a strong community, and that’s why UAW-Ford is so proud to support this valuable program and others like it that improve people’s lives.
For more information about UAW-Ford community outreach programs, visit UAWFordCommunity.org.
– Jimmy Settles
Vice President, UAW-Ford
Anyone interested in volunteering with Meals on Wheels for future holiday deliveries can contact 313-446-4444 for more information.