As a MCH Board Member, Jeff Nims knows how important MCH Meals on Wheels is to Knox County residents. It wasn’t until 2015 when they were asked to cover for the Hope route driver one day that he and his wife, Betty, got a front seat view. Betty and Jeff filled in for a couple of months. The regular driver for 20 years, whose health was deteriorating, began receiving a meal delivery on what was his former route.
Though they loved helping out, the 120 mile a day route was too much for Betty and Jeff to keep at, so at the time, MCH hired a paid driver. After a year and a half, with budget constraints looming, Betty and Jeff found themselves back in the driver’s seat. Katie Tarbox began coordinating volunteer drivers in July 2016. She worked with MCH Kitchen Manager, Ernie Bullard, to brainstorm solutions for this challenging route. Together they shaved time and miles off the route. Drivers had to return to Rockland at the end of their rounds to return empty insulated boxes in which meals are kept warm in the car. Ernie lives in Washington, so now drivers drop empty boxes at Ernie’s house and now he brings the boxes into work with him the next morning, to be refilled and sent out for another round of meal delivery.
These days, a team of People’s United Methodist Church friends in Union, organized by Jeff and Betty, share the delivery week. Pat Medeika makes the rounds each Monday, Dan Day each Friday, and Betty and Jeff Nims do Wednesdays. Frozen meals from the MCH kitchen fill in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, dropped off with the previous day’s hot meal. Union drivers leave their houses at 7:45; load up at the MCH kitchen at 8:15, and head west on Route 17. After stops on Route 90 they head up to Appleton and Hope, Washington and home again: 11 stops, 15 people, each with their own unique story.
Betty was hooked the first time they filled in. It just took a little tweaking for it to become a long term commitment. She and Jeff enjoy meeting the need in their extended neighborhood and helping people who have difficulty getting nutritious meals. They also love the contact with people, sometimes fun and sometimes poignant. During a delivery after Thanksgiving Jeff asked one client, “How was your Thanksgiving?” to sadly learn that the lady had just lost her son. Further down the road is another client who enlivens their stops with her peppy conversations, particularly as her tricky memory creates amusing interactions. For Betty Nims, getting a chance to see the people and make sure they’re OK is the highlight of each delivery.