Guest Author: Alex Smith, Business Developer at iProv, LLC
Recently, my boss came into our usual Monday morning meeting. He gave his little spiel and then wrapped up by sharing an idea with us. He wanted our team to take advantage of a volunteer opportunity with a local nonprofit, CareLink - a company I had much familiarity with already. I'll get to that in a sec.
RJ, my boss, suggested we volunteer for CareLink’s Meals on Wheels program. He explained that we would prepare the food and then deliver it to the elderly in need. Mind you, while the gesture may seem small, you have no idea the impact this program can have and, for some, how close to home it hits.
You see, when you're taking care of an elderly loved one, they have you, and you have them. They aren't alone. But for so many, that is not the case.
Back to my familiarity with CareLink. My father is 81 years old. I am 27. I was adopted by both of my amazing parents in 1990. The life they have been fighting so hard to give me has been the biggest blessing I have ever received. As I have gotten older, so has my father - naturally of course. For the last 7 years, even while attending college, I was taking care of my dad. It was hard but so much fun. When my sister suggested reaching out to CareLink’s Meals on Wheels to assist me in this venture, I had no clue what was about to happen - or how it would come back full circle.
CareLink sent someone every day to my home around lunchtime to bring my dad food and say hello. It was pretty neat, especially when you learn that those delivering the meals are volunteers. These individuals give up their own time to help this great organization do what they do best.
So fast forward to our volunteer day with my company and CareLink: We arrived at CareLink’s Community Kitchen, enjoyed a tour of the building and immediately started making food. One would never know as an outsider, but those are not pre-frozen TV trays. Everything they serve is fresh, made from scratch. It's incredible. Talk about a process! After we packed up the food in my car, we were given our routes and off we went. What I was about to endure on a mental, spiritual, and just human level of consciousness was about to open a door to my heart I thought I already had given having an elderly parent. I'm already an emotional giant as it is, but this, this was different...
We get to our first house. We knock, and no one answers. We knock again and knock again. We had been instructed, in the case of no one answering, not to leave the food at the door and to take it back. All 4 of us are standing outside knocking because we want to bring joy to whoever opens up that door. After 5 or 6 knocks, we all looked at each other and started walking back to the car. I gave it one more knock as I walked away just hoping that maybe this is normal. What the heck, just try it one more time. I hear this faint voice that said hello. I must have entered that door like captain America, only to see this sweet lady trying to get up and answer the door with an oxygen mask on and her voice being so gentle and quiet. We gave her the food, hugged her and visited for a moment. Knowing we had other places to stop, we did our best not to linger for long but my heart wanted to. As we said goodbye, I got in the car, asked for the next route and proceeded to drive.
I could not stop thinking about the outcome of what just happened. What if we would have just given up and left? What if I didn't knock one more time? What if she had fought too hard to get up to answer the door and something bad happened? Obviously, none of those was the outcome. But it had me thinking long and hard - to the point of tears. Some of these older people have family or friends there with them. But the truth is most don't.
That's where this all comes full circle. As I type this, tears are running down my face. I am thinking back to my dad. What if I wasn't there? What if he tried to get up and get that food? What if? But that's where CareLink comes in. This organization, their staff and their volunteers are people that don't stop, don't give up, don't quit. Having a career in something you know is making an impact is the biggest and most fulfilling job there is. The people we served may have looked at us and said, "I'm glad you're here," but, deep down, I was thinking “No, I am glad YOU are here. You made a bigger impact on me than I did you."
I could write all day about my story and what our other visits were like. But all it took was the 1st house. The 1ST STOP. That's the impact it left on me. I left wanting to find a way to do more.
What we did that day was so positive. But there are many people that don't understand the importance of CareLink and Meals on Wheels. They're it. They. Are. It. Sometimes this is the only meal these people eat or the only interaction they have all day. Don't forget about the elderly, because they don't forget about you. They have seen the most, done the most, and been through the most. And that deserves a lifetime of respect, gratitude, and help whenever duty calls.
Thank you for the opportunity, CareLink. I'll be back, maybe for good!