Meals on Wheels is the type of volunteer program that no matter how old or young you are, you'll be able to find a good friend and have a fun time. "That's why it's called Fun and Friends Senior Center," Densel McGee, one of the route drivers said.
In my continuation of the Meals on Wheels series, I went on route two, which is one of the shorter routes, with Densel and Don Thurman, also known as "Joker" because of his non-stop jokes.
"Don't listen to half of what he says," Densel said about Joker. "Watch him. He might tell you a joke and it might not be good."
"Are we going to be on 'America's Most Wanted'?" Joker said. "They'd put me on 'America's Least Wanted.'"
They're a couple of good old boys who want to have a fun time no matter where they are or what they are doing.
"You got to remember where you're at -- Fun and Friends (Senior) Center," Densel said. "We try to keep it funny. That's hard to do sometimes."
"We do it for the fun of it," Joker said. "We get a good sense of accomplishment in helping the elderly."
Shelia Smith, of the Area Agency on Aging, who is also Densel's sister, said Meals on Wheels is a not-for-profit organization. "We get partial funding through the Older Americans Act," Smith said. That act states that those who are 60 years or older are entitled to a hot meal every day.
Smith said other funding is provided through a senior citizens tax. "The rest of it (funding) is through fundraisers, contributions and donation," Smith said.
"It takes a lot to run this place," Smith said. "I think the Older Americans Act pays for like a third of the meals."
People can donate to Meals on Wheels and to the Fun and Friends Senior Center. Smith said anything donated, whether it's money or other needed items, can be counted as tax deductible.
Meals on Wheels is not a free program, Smith said. "A lot of people think it's a free program, and it's for low income people, but it's not," Smith said. "There is a price. If you're a senior and you're 60 years old or older it's $2.75, $3 if you carry out, $5 if you're not 60 and you come in and eat or carry out," Smith said.
Those who are not able to pay the full price of the meal can donate whatever they can, Smith said.
"We wouldn't turn anyone away (if they can't pay)," Smith said. She said those on Medicaid don't have to contribute because Medicaid will pay for their meals.
"Last month we did about 8,600 meals and it just keeps going up every month," Smith said. "That's a lot of meals we do here for a small town. In fact, we probably do more meals than, for say, Alton or West Plains."
"I believe, right now, there's close to 300 (residents who receive meals)," Smith said.
Some route drivers put in a lot of miles every week delivering hot and frozen meals. Smith said some of the deliveries are out of the Thayer territory. One driver puts in about 200 miles per week on her route.
Meals on Wheels is in constant need of volunteers. "We can always use volunteers," Smith said. She said there is no strict commitment once a person becomes a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Volunteers can come in whenever they have time.
"We just take them (volunteers) whenever they can get here," Smith said.