Paying it Forward, One Meal at a Time
Paying It Forward, One Meal at a Time
July 31, 2018
Meals on Wheels volunteer Rhonda Stuckey has always had a special place in her heart for the elderly, which is why she has been delivering meals to St. Peters-area seniors for the past 30 years.
"I started when my youngest daughter was in preschool, and she is now 33," Rhonda said. "I was a stay-at-home mom back then, so I had the time. Plus, I thought it would be good for my kids to see that you should do things for other people."
In fact, Rhonda made volunteering with the St. Peters Meals on Wheels program a family affair, often bringing her youngest daughter along with her. When her daughter started kindergarten, Rhonda had to stop volunteering so she could take her to and from school.
"I still remember my daughter asking me why I wasn't delivering food anymore," Rhonda recalled. "So I went back when she was in first grade and never stopped. You just become so attached to these people, it's so neat."
Rhonda would also bring her niece along with her when she visited from Seattle, and her niece developed a special relationship with Mary Schmidt, who has been one of Rhonda's stops for as long as she has been volunteering.
"Mary is one of my favorites," Rhonda said. "My niece even writes letters to her."
"She sends me all kinds of nice little cards," Mary added. "She tells me how she's doing in school and I'm glad to hear that."
"When I first started coming she was a little thing. She's 14 now," Rhonda said of her niece. "She's supposed to come visit me next week, and I said if she comes, we're going to come over."
"Well, you just come over because I'm inbound here and can't get out," Mary said. "I'll be here."
Unfortunately, this is the case with many of the residents who receive hot meals every day, Monday through Friday. Many are homebound and unable to cook for themselves, but thanks to the Meals on Wheels program they are able to remain independent.
"I have good days and bad days," Mary said. "I get aggravated because I can't do what I want to do, and things that I should do, and things that I know that need to be done."
"Well, you need to forgive yourself, you can't do everything," Rhonda encouraged Mary. "Be kind to yourself."
For many, Rhonda brightens their day when she pops in to a deliver a meal, even if it's only for a few minutes to ask how their day is going, talk about the weather or check in on their health. And each stop is different-some residents invite you in to have a seat and chat, others are grateful for the meal and send you along your way.
"I've always said that, for most of the people, the meal is secondary," said Rhonda. "It's having somebody to talk to for a few minutes. Some of these people never see anybody, so just to have somebody come in and say 'Hi' once a day is enough. There are different personalities, of course. Some don't want to be bothered and others want to chat, but it really doesn't take that much time."
Currently, volunteers at the Mayor Tom Brown Senior Center deliver about 200 meals a day to homebound seniors and disabled residents in the St. Peters area. Around 100 volunteers will make deliveries every week, whether it's every day or just one day a week, like Rhonda, and the Senior Center is always looking for more volunteer drivers.
"I volunteer once a week on Wednesdays, and it takes anywhere from one to two hours, depending on how many stops I have that day," Rhonda said. "It can range anywhere from nine to 16 meals a day."
Another one of Rhonda's stops is Geraldine Veness, who has been receiving meals for about three years now. She said she would recommend Meals on Wheels to anyone who is unable to cook for themselves.
"Rhonda is the best," Geraldine said. "She just does her job, she's on time and I appreciate everything she's doing. I'd be lost without it-I am very pleased with the program."
At the end of the day, Rhonda is happy to deliver meals and provide a little bit of friendly company once a week because she believes in a way, she's paying it forward.
"Who knows, someday we could all be here," she said.
If you're interested in volunteering for the St. Peters Meals on Wheels program, or if you know someone who may be in need of home-delivered meals, call 636-278-1609.