Volunteering is normally considered a way to give back to the community, but people rarely think of volunteering as a way to help themselves, too.
This week on my Meals on Wheels adventure in Thayer, I went on route three, out in the countryside all the way to Couch and on some dirt side roads to deliver hot meals to the elderly.
I acted as both packer and carrier for this route. The packer gets the meals ready for each delivery as the driver pulls up to the driveway.
The driver was James Brown, who served in the Army in Vietnam and said he suffers from depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
James is not alone. Depression and PTSD is a growing problem, especially with veterans and current soldiers. Depression, alone, is a disease that plagues about 16 percent of Americans, according to www.depression.com.
"I needed something to do," James said. "Actually, my psychologist recommended it (volunteering with Meals on Wheels). I needed to get out more, you know, where I could do stuff like that."
"It gets me out. That's the main thing to get me out of the house some, you know, and enjoy," James said.
He said he knew he suffered from depression several years ago but didn't start being treated until this past year. There are many depression sufferers who put off treatment because they either feel they can handle it or because they think it's normal.
James has been driving the same route most of the time he has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels. He said he has worked with the program for a little over a year. He said the 28 mile route is relaxing because of the beautiful country and the longer drives in between deliveries.
Though Meals on Wheels is committed to helping the elderly with their food, it has also been able to help James.
"It (volunteering) helps," James said. "Otherwise, see, I'd probably be sitting at home watching TV, you know what I mean?"
Those who suffer from depression often feel useless and believe they are not needed, and no one cares about them. However, when people volunteer, they begin to feel as if they are a part of something that matters and begin to feel as if they are needed. Seeing an elderly lady receive her meals and say, "Thank you, I don't know what I would do without you," is enough to make anyone feel good inside.
"I'm getting the benefit out of it as well as the customers," James said. "That's the way I see it."
For those who want to volunteer with Meals on Wheels, they can call or stop by the Fun and Friends Senior Center. The number is 264-7354.