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August 20
00:00 2014

Doctors pulling summer volunteer duty at Senior Services

(pictured above:  Dr. Julia Williams gives a meal to Josie Shirley.)

DSC_0718Most Americans take some kind of vacation during the summer, including the dependable volunteers who deliver Meals-on-Wheels to senior citizens.

Geriatricians from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have signed on to deliver meals this summer to help Senior Services deal with the volunteer shortfall the season brings.

Linda Kersley stands in the kitchen area.

Linda Kersley stands in the kitchen area.

“We are always in need of volunteers, and we have 63 routes that need filling,” said Linda Kearsley, vice president of nutrition services at Senior Services. “There is always a need, but it is particularly in the summer and during holidays.”

Dr. Julia Williams, a geriatrician and assistant professor of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said 17 volunteers from the hospital will help out. Since the geriatric department serves senior citizens, the staff already have a well-established bond with Senior Services, which offers several other programs in addition to Meals-on-Wheels to aid seniors.

Dr. Julie Williams

Dr. Julie Williams

“We have a long partnership with Senior Services. We have the same goal in mind which is observing the care, health and independence of the older population in Forsyth County, and this was a way to give back,” Williams said. “There is nothing like seeing a patient in their own environment. This helps us understand the difficulties that our patients are facing, and we can make preparations, based on that knowledge, for discharge.”

Meals are delivered to 1,200 senior citizens in Forsyth County from Monday through Friday by volunteers, who not only bring seniors food, but put smiles on their faces through light banter and often hugs. Kearsley said volunteers have also become essential in making sure recipients are safe.

“We offer them (clients) security. If something is not right with a resident, the volunteer will call back here and let us know so we can get them help,” she said.

Williams said seeing patients in their home as opposed to in the hospital is eye-opening for doctors.
“The dynamic is very different. There, the patient may feel very inhibited in the (medical) history that they offer, the comments they share or the challenges they’re facing at home. They’re much more open about that when we are able to see them in a home environment,” Williams said.

Not all of those the doctors will deliver to will be their current or former patients. Larry and Josie Shirley’s home was on Williams’ route. They began receiving meals after he was paralyzed by a stroke.

“I am not much of a cook, but I can always guarantee that he will have one meal during the day,” Mrs. Shirley said. “I can break it down or add to it and it helps me over the weekend.”

Mrs. Shirley said that her husband looks forward to the meals and watches the clock in anticipation. She said that it also gives her daughter peace of mind to know that they are eating at least one good meal a day.

“He kind of knows the cars so he will look for them. He may say, ‘Oh they are late today,’ or ‘They are early today.’ He looks forward to them coming out Monday through Friday,” she said.

Of course, Senior Services also has a trove of other volunteers – men and women who make it their business to give as much time as they can to the agency year-round.

Volunteers Nancy Nathan and Betty Hampton prepare for their route.

Volunteers Nancy Nathan and Betty Hampton prepare for their route.

They include Nancy Nathan and Betty Hampton, members of downtown’s First Baptist Church. The women are such devout volunteers that their grandchildren often ask about meal recipients, many of whom they have come to know from riding along with their grandmas on their route.

“I think it is important for us to help those who need help. Right now, at this time of my life, I can do that,” Nathan said.

For more information about services or to volunteer, call 336-748-5932 or visit seniorservicesinc.org.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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