Friday, April 25th, 2014

Driving miles to deliver meals and smiles

Mitchell Howard (left), a member of West Jefferson High School’s student council, and student council president Logan Stepp deliver a meal to West Jefferson resident Michael Tabor during a weekly round of service for Lifecare Alliance’s Meals on Wheels program.

Mitchell Howard (left), a member of West Jefferson High School’s student council, and student council president Logan Stepp deliver a meal to West Jefferson resident Michael Tabor during a weekly round of service for Lifecare Alliance’s Meals on Wheels program.

By Linda Dillman, staff writer

On a weekly basis, West Jefferson High School’s student council members put service into practice by delivering meals to area residents.

The organization’s affiliation with Lifecare Alliance’s Meals on Wheels began in January 2005 when Dustin Hardgrove, then a senior at the school, wanted to do more for his community.

“This is what we came up with,” said advisor Jen Miller, who drives students around town on their deliveries after picking up nearly two dozen meals from a drop site at West Jefferson United Methodist Church.

In the past eight years, student council members have donated more than 1,000 hours in service to Meals on Wheels. A pair of student volunteers spends approximately two hours every Monday traversing the town with meals in hand for recipients like Bill Straley and Michael Tabor.

“I really appreciate what they do,” said Tabor during a Nov. 18 delivery by senior Logan Stepp, student council president, and junior Mitchell Howard. “My wife is totally disabled, and I quit my job to take care of her, so there isn’t much money. It’s very nice to have them bring meals to us.”

Stepp said he appreciates the opportunity to give back to others. He has gone on Meals on Wheels runs six or seven times during his tenure with student council.

“It’s great to be able to help people in need,” Stepp said.

Miller said clients enjoy seeing younger kids, and some recipients like to chat about sports when students ring their doorbells. Up until three years ago, students also donated their time making summer deliveries, but scheduling conflicts made it difficult for organizers to find enough student volunteers on a regular basis.

When asked about the impact of the project on student council members, Miller said it is an eye-opener for some high schoolers and an opportunity to make a personal connection with people they oterhwise might not get to know.

“I do know most continue to volunteer and give back,” Miller said. “They tend to remain active while they are in college, and I hope that when they have children, they instill the importance of it as well.”

Howard began delivering meals when he joined student council three years ago. He said when he arrives at a house, he usually asks clients if everything is okay and then tells them to have a good day.

When asked why he donates his time to Meals on Wheels, Howard said, “I volunteer because it is a great way to give back to our community. It is important because we are helping people that have a hard time helping themselves.”

As an added bonus, seniors who volunteer can count their hours toward community service graduation requirements. Younger students can document their service hours on college and scholarship applications. 

Each student council member usually goes on deliveries two times a school year. Every member is given the choice whether or not to deliver. Miller said she has only had one student who chose not to deliver.

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