Meals On Wheels Program Some Seniors Only Point Of Contact

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Every weekday morning at 9:30, a group of three meet at the Payson Senior Center kitchen to prepare a hot meal for those who are not able to buy food or cook for themselves.

The Meals on Wheels Program delivers around 100 meals a day to homebound seniors.

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Ed Heckerson wraps meals on Monday morning for delivery to homebound seniors who cannot afford food or cannot cook for themselves. All meals are delivered still hot.

Ed Heckerson, who was wrapping the meals on Monday morning, is one of two delivery drivers.

Two kitchen volunteers were preparing the meals before forwarding them to Heckerson, who would then wrap them in saran wrap.

He said all the lunch meals are freshly made and are delivered while still hot.

"It's all freshly cooked," Heckerson said. "Everything is made here."

He said the number of meals delivered usually depend on the food.

Mike Miller, the Meals on Wheels coordinator, said many of the seniors they deliver to would not have any hot meals if it were not for the program.

Miller is also the other route driver. Both he and Heckerson have runners who go on the routes with them to help them deliver the meals.

Miller said if there is a holiday that falls on a weekday, the drivers will deliver a hot meal as well as a frozen meal for the following day.

He said the hot meals are just a part of what the homebound seniors are seeking.

"Most of the time we are the only contact they have," he said. "Sometimes it is their only hot meal. They are very appreciative, and that is why it is so rewarding."

The two routes are east and west of the Beeline Highway.

He said one of the health requirements from Gila County is that the meals must be delivered within two hours.

Miller said he does his deliveries in about an hour and 45 minutes, while Heckerson's deliveries take him just under two hours.

Miller said he would eventually like to include Star Valley in the Meals on Wheels program.

For that to happen, the Center would need a third driver because of the two-hour delivery requirement. The meals are packaged between 9:30 and 10 a.m. and are delivered by noon.

Miller said the small operation that is run by seven volunteers in all runs smoothly.

Usually, there are two drivers and two runners as well as three people who work in the kitchen, packaging and preparing the meals.

The meals cost $3 on a donation basis, but Miller said only 10 percent actually donate.

"They donate when they can," he said.

Miller said many of the seniors would be lost without this service.

"That is why I like it," he said. "When you go into some of these homes, you realize how lucky you have it."

-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail mmaresh@payson.com.

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