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Volunteers Build Lasting Relationships with Clients

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Tom has been volunteering with Coal Creek Meals on Wheels since 2017. His partner, Janice, had been volunteering for many years, and he decided to join her when he retired. “I rode along with Janice a few times and figured this would be the perfect way to spend my retirement,” Tom said. Before retirement, Tom worked as an HR Manager for 15 years, then a Computer Technician up until retirement.

Tom met with CCMOW’s Development & Marketing Director to talk about what it is like volunteering with Coal Creek Meals on Wheels. He shared that most delivery drivers will try to develop a positive relationship with their clients, but not all clients are interested. “Some clients I have only met once, even though I have been delivering to them for years,” Tom said. This became much more common during the COVID-19 pandemic as health and safety concerns kept clients from coming to their doors, and many have continued this pattern. However, some relationships will develop beyond the standard client-driver relationship. Tom shared that it is extremely important to let the client take the lead in evolving their relationship as some might not feel comfortable opening up to someone who stops by once a week to deliver a meal.

Lennard & Tom

Tom has many memories and examples of relationships that have developed during his time volunteering with CCMOW. For example, he developed a strong relationship with a woman named Irene. He learned that she was born in London and eventually married a GI during World War II. She was a strong swimmer as a child and eventually got on a waitlist for a permit to swim the English Channel. Unfortunately, the war broke out shortly after she received her permit, so she was never able to attempt the swim. Irene lived in an older house that required going up stairs to enter, so Irene gave Tom permission to let himself into the home. Each day, she had a cookie waiting for him on a napkin and she would ask “Can you stay and chat for a few minutes?” Irene passed away a few weeks before her 95th birthday comfortably in her own home.

“I’m fortunate enough to have a route which includes my own neighborhood,” Tom said. “My clients are also my neighbors and, in several cases, are practically extended family. I sometimes see them or their family members while out walking or at the local grocery store. CCMOW is an important part of my life now.”

Pat was one of his neighbors Tom was lucky enough to deliver meals to for many years. He organized things so Pat was his last delivery, giving them time to chat. Pat would sit and wait on her front porch, no matter the weather. One day, Pat said “I wish we could have met 20 years ago - we would have been such good friends!” Eventually, Pat moved into an assisted living facility and discontinued her meal deliveries, but Tom was able to visit with her a few times before she passed away.

During their relationship, Tom had met Pat’s youngest daughter and still keeps in touch with her. While delivering to Pat, they would always wave to a neighbor across the street named Alfred, who is now a client on Tom’s delivery route! Alfred has a caretaker at home and often doesn’t leave his recliner, but he makes sure it is facing the door so he can chat with Tom each time he delivers his meal.

At CCMOW, we deliver more than just a meal. We provide daily socialization and the opportunity to build authentic relationships for both our clients and our volunteers that transcend differences such as age, socioeconomic status, background, and more. Our services can truly change lives.

Tom & Alfred

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