As residents across the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck confront the COVID-19 pandemic, heartwarming stories about Bay Aging’s volunteers are emerging.
Social distancing is now the new normal, exacerbating feelings of isolation that all of us, but especially homebound seniors, can experience. Yet, despite personal challenges, Bay Aging’s Meals on Wheels volunteers are rising to the task during these difficult times.
Mathews resident Shirley Tomlin and her husband John Filichko had been a Meals on Wheels delivery team for years. “I truly love doing it,” Tomlin said. “I’ve always loved older people and they are so glad to see you come by.”
When Filichko, a retired U.S. Army First Sergeant, died at the age of 90 on March 17, Tomlin decided to continue volunteering in his honor. “It’s really nice when you have two people because my husband was so good with directions,” she said.
Tomlin decided to continue despite her husband’s passing in part because of her admiration for the people who prepare and manage Meals on Wheels distribution in Mathews County. “I love going to Mathews High School to get the meals,” she said. “The people that prepare the meals are remarkable. Laura Matthews [Bay Aging’s Meals on Wheels Volunteer Coordinator in Mathews County] is marvelous. She makes you want to volunteer.”
When John Koontz, vice chairman of the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors, agreed to be a guest volunteer in support of Bay Aging’s annual “March for Meals” campaign, he had no idea how meaningful the experience would be for him. He partnered with veteran Meals on Wheels’ volunteer Carol Hamlett, whom Koontz described as “a great ambassador for the program.” While accompanying Hamlett on deliveries the full extent of the need came into focus.
“Carol makes you search your soul and ask why I am not more like that,” Koontz said. “The personal relationships that Carol has with them is really inspiring.”
“In normal times, I’d like to volunteer and bring my children with me,” Koontz said. “Volunteering for Meals on Wheels will teach my children that your community works only as well as the people in it.”
For Jean Pierce, being a Meals on Wheels volunteer “got me out of a coronavirus funk.” Pierce is a real estate agent who started volunteering with Bay Aging in early March. “When the COVID-19 thing started a few weeks later, I kind of got in a funk. Then I was delivering some food to a lady and, as I was about to leave, she said, ’Thank you. I love you’ and that snapped me out of my funk. I’ve been feeling good ever since. I’ve been inspired ever since.”
Jennifer Beck, who manages Bay Aging’s Meals on Wheels program, noted, “We have enrolled clients from our Adult Day Care Centers, and people all across the region. We want to reiterate that our neighbors who are experiencing food insecurity during these difficult times can call us at 1-800-493-0238 to enroll.”
Bay Aging also offers a Community Volunteer and Request for Assistance link on both the Bay Aging website and Facebook page to connect interested volunteers with neighbors in need of assistance. Bay Aging will only share contact information among those volunteering to provide services to those who are requesting services.
The best way to get updates about Bay Aging’s services is to visit the Bay Aging website at www.bayaging.org or its Facebook page. For those without access to the internet, call Bay Aging at 1-800-493-0238.