“If you’re not trying to help people, what are you doing?”

That’s David’s perspective on volunteering with United Way Meals on Wheels. For him, helping others is simply a matter of making good use of your time. Showing empathy for others’ limitations. And putting your best intentions into action.

David delivered nearly 10,000 meals to his Meals on Wheels clients in the first 10 months of the pandemic.

David began his volunteer work with Meals on Wheels about four years ago – well before the pandemic and shortly after retiring from his job as a locomotive engineer for Norfolk Southern Railway, where he worked for 39 years.

“My knees got bad and it was just too hard to climb up on the train anymore,” he said. But David still had plenty of desire to be productive and wanted to make a difference in his community. So, in addition to a little golf, guitar and his duties as an associate minister at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Pratt City, he made room for Meals on Wheels and the many homebound seniors to whom he has grown very close.

Prior to COVID-19, Meals on Wheels normally delivered hot meals to clients five days a week; David volunteered on four of those days in the Pratt City area of Jefferson County. Now, as a way to limit the exposure of all clients and volunteers during the pandemic, Meals on Wheels has temporarily shifted to once-a-week delivery of five frozen meals. And David is all in. He currently has 40 clients on his route (the most of any volunteer) and said he would like to add even more. In the first 10 months of this new schedule, he delivered nearly 10,000 meals to people who, otherwise, might have simply gone hungry.

Each Meals on Wheels volunteer has his or her own way of interacting with clients. In David’s case, he said, “I usually don’t just drop the meals at the door and go because you never know what somebody needs.” Indeed, many homebound seniors get lonely (especially now) and may have various issues they need a little help with. “We talk at a distance,” he said, “often have a word of prayer and if there’s something I can help them with, I try to do it. And it’s a funny thing — when I’m delivering meals, my knees don’t bother me at all. So I’m here to do this as long as I can.”

David said the clients are so appreciative of Meals on Wheels – and there’s no doubt they each look forward to his brief visit every week. The feeling is definitely mutual. As he said, “When you look at their humble, loving faces, who wouldn’t want to help? The pandemic has changed a lot of things, but it didn’t take away their appetites.”