It’s 10:15 on a Saturday morning. While many University students spend their day sleeping in or battling a hangover, others choose to meet at a warehouse and spend the early hours of their weekend driving around Ann Arbor, delivering meals to the elderly and disabled.
Supported by the University of Michigan Health System, Motor Meals of Ann Arbor is a nonprofit volunteer agency that provides both hot and cold meals to people who are unable to cook or shop for themselves or do not have someone who is able to provide meals for them. The goal is to deliver food to people in the Ann Arbor area so that they may remain in their homes comfortably, said Volunteer Coordinator Joan Miller.
“Motor Meals gives clients the opportunity to continue living in their own home. Volunteers get the opportunity to see where different people are living in different environments and they help these people stay where they want to live,” she said.
“We deliver food but we also serve as a well-check; we give them security because they know we are always going to be there, and we know they are always there. If our clients do not answer the door, we know to call their contacts to make sure they are safe,” Miller added.
Motor Meal clients receive both lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and are given an optional meal for Sunday. Diabetic and liquid diets accommodate clients with specific health issues. Nutritional supplements are also available for those who need them.
“The University of Michigan Hospital cooks food that is prepared at the warehouse. It is nice because it is packaged for each person’s dietary needs,” said Heather O’Shea, an LSA sophomore.
Janiece Lehmann said she notices how appreciative the clients are of Motor Meals.
“The unique thing about this program is that their meals for the weekend are delivered right to their doors. They are really appreciative of that,” said Lehmann, an LSA sophomore.
Not only do individual students opt to volunteer, but clubs and organizations also take part in Motor Meals. The Spouses of Students club volunteers every Saturday. The Pre-Med club volunteers once a month, and the Sigma Kappa sorority has made it a tradition to volunteer every other Saturday at Motor Meals as their yearlong philanthropy event.
O’Shea, who is the philanthropy chair of Sigma Kappa, said she particularly enjoys delivering meals to the nursing homes.
“I like Motor Meals because it is not only giving people what they need, but we are providing the elderly with company. They always like to see smiling faces at an outside activity because a lot of the people we deliver to don’t have people to visit them. I make sure everyone has a chance to go,” O’Shea said.
Leah Dvorkin, a Kinesiology freshman and member of Sigma Kappa, agrees that both the volunteers and the clients benefit from the experience.
“It’s nice because we get to know the people we are serving. Even though they do not always remember us, we recognize them. If we know a client is hard of hearing, we’ll knock harder. If we know a client has trouble walking, we’ll bring their food right to them,” Dvorkin said.
While some people volunteer for credit or some kind of recognition, Dvorkin made it clear how enthusiastic she and her sorority sisters are to volunteer.
“My sorority loves doing it. It is always a first come, first serve type of thing,” she said.
She added that her favorite part of volunteering is “getting out of the college scene and doing something I normally wouldn’t do. It is so minor but it is beyond a good deed. The elderly smile, thank us, and they are appreciative. It just makes you feel good.”