David Macleod drives across some of the most rural areas in the south and western areas of Isabella County to deliver food to senior citizens.
Those citizens are the clients of the Meals on Wheels program, which the Isabella County Commission on Aging uses to get food to seniors in need.
Macleod worked in Central Michigan University’s history department for more than 40 years. After the 70-year-old former professor retired in 2012, he heard from a friend about an active way to spend his retirement, and give back to the community.
“I drive to seven houses each week,” he said. “Doing this really helps those who are generally older. It’s a manageable task.”
Macleod drives along one of 30 routes assigned each day. Carmel Slebodnik, coordinator of the food preparation and volunteers for the program, said each volunteer gets two containers – one with hot food and one with cold food – to deliver to each stop.
“They drive around and deliver at least five meals per day. It’s not just meals we’re delivering, but also our services,” Slebodnik said. “We go there also to make sure that the person is all right.”
Despite their dedication, a driver might not be able to make it to a senior citizen’s home every day. Macleod said there have been a few instances where drivers will get an email notifying them to not go to their destinations if the roads have too much snow.
“They cancel the runs if schools close. That’s our way of knowing the roads are not safe to drive on,” Macleod said.
In early February, Macleod found himself stuck in a client’s unplowed driveway during one of his first stops. He said he tried to get his car unstuck for at least an hour before calling for assistance.
“When I was stuck, I called the Commission on Aging and told them I was going to be late,” Macleod said. “I got my car out, but the food was warm instead of hot.”
Being a driver isn’t the only way people can volunteer to help senior citizens get their food. Darcy Buchoz, a 22-year-old West Branch senior, said the program has helped her gain useful experience for pursuing a career in social work.
“I’ve been working with them for two years. I started off just going there one time and sitting down with the clients they have and conversing with them,” Buchoz said. “One of the stigmas that we hear is that old people are in nursing homes and stuff like that. It kind of broke that stigma for me while working there.”