By Nicole Goben, MS, RD, CDN
Did you know that April is National Volunteer Month? It’s a time to honor and thank the people who work selflessly to make our community a better place. The work we do at Meals on Wheels certainly wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteers. At Meals on Wheels for WNY, approximately 400 volunteers help each day to ensure that our clients are fed. Not only do these volunteers provide our seniors with nutritious meals to improve their health and well-being, they also provide socialization.
Social isolation is a serious threat to health, having impacts on both the brain and the body. Loneliness and unmet social needs have been shown to take a toll on heart health by increasing how hard the heart has to work, raising blood pressure, and elevating stress hormones. Additionally, loneliness can inhibit sleep quality which reduces restorative effects on both the body and mind. This can cause an increased rate of functional decline and decreased learning and memory ability. As the population served at Meals on Wheels is primarily homebound, their social isolation is a concern.
For some clients, Meals on Wheels volunteers are the only people that a client will see all day. A client in Cheektowaga states, “It’s a relief to know that someone is coming to see me every day. My family is busy and can only come over every so often; it’s nice to know I’ll always have a smiling face and a few minutes of conversation to get me through the day.” Being able to make these meaningful social connections greatly reduces loneliness and the health risks that come along with it.
Our clients often speak about how wonderful their volunteers are and how grateful they are for their services. One client refers to her Meals on Wheels volunteers as a true blessing, saying “they come out rain, shine and even during our Buffalo blizzards! I don’t know what I would do without their help.”
Interested in getting involved and helping our neighbors in need? There are volunteer opportunities available to fit into your busy schedule. It only takes an hour out of your day to provide food and friendship, and dedicating some of your time to Meals on Wheels will greatly enrich the lives of the homebound elderly or disabled who are in need. Call 822-2002 or visit www.mealsonwheelsforwny.org/volunteer for more information.