Volunteers deliver meals for James River Senior Center

Progress meals John Mayer
John Mayer, volunteer delivery driver at James River Senior Center, grabs bags of hot meals he will distribute. John M. Steiner / The Sun

John Mayer says he began delivering meals about 11 years ago for James River Senior Citizens Center Inc.

“I started out when I retired and it was through our church,” he said. At that time, he delivered meals on weekends to Jamestown residents. “And then I asked (the senior center), I said, ‘Who does it during the week?’ and they said, ‘Well, volunteers, can we put your name down?”

Mayer said “OK.”

Now, he delivers meals every Monday for the senior center.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I guess a lot of ... people (who receive the meals), that’s the only chance they get to visit a little bit.”


Mayer and other volunteers like him make the difference for the Home Delivered Meals Program, says Maureen Wegenke, executive director of the senior center.

“We couldn’t do it without them. They’re amazing,” she said. She said if someone isn’t able to do the route on a certain day, the center is able to readily find another volunteer to fill in.

“We’ve got regular volunteers, regular organizations that help out real well. We really haven’t had to recruit a lot,” she said.

Missy Siek, Home Delivered Meal coordinator, lines up the volunteers. The senior center has eight meal routes that volunteers deliver during lunchtime Monday through Friday in Jamestown.

“Monthly, right now, it’s around 1700 (meals),” Wegenke said. “And it’s growing.”

Wegenke said she thinks part of the reason for the growth is they are getting the word out more.

“There used to be a misconception that you had to be able to afford it and that’s just not the case,” she said. “I mean, that shouldn’t stop anyone from getting meals.”

The total actual cost for a home-delivered meal or congregate meal in 2017, the most current rate, is $10.63, according to the North Dakota Senior Service Providers, a group of agencies that provide services to older adults in the state. Federal, state and local funds along with what the individual contributes are what pays for those meals.


The center has a suggested donation of $4 for that $10.63 meal for people who are age 60 and older or for people who have a disability and live in senior housing.

“We let them know it’s a suggested donation of $4 but if they’re in a tight situation whatever they can afford is what they can afford,” Wegenke said.

What’s important about the meals is that they are nutritious for the people getting them, she said. The meals are based on standards set by the federal Older Americans Act. People who get the meals may otherwise have difficulty getting a nutritious meal, she said.

“A lot of times it’s a medical problem and they aren’t able to get up and make their meals or they can’t get out and get the kind of right kind of food they need for a nutritious meal,” Wegenke said of the meal recipients.

The volunteers who help deliver the meals include individuals and organizations.

“The people that get the meals just love seeing these people because sometimes that’s the only people they see,” Wegenke said. “So they get to see a smiling face. … and I know I’ve talked to quite a few (who get the meals) who said they really enjoy that.”

If someone doesn’t come to the door to get the meal, it’s noted and the office manager will call and check on that person, Wegenke said.

“If they don’t answer then we’ll call their emergency contact,” she said.


Deb Franz is in her third year of getting meals delivered. She said she’s grateful to get them and she feels good knowing someone will be stopping to check on her with the meal delivery.

“They’re great,” she said. “They’re great, they’re friendly, they’re polite.”

She said she couldn’t thank them enough.

Yvonne Wegner said she’s been delivering meals since around 2006.

“It’s not a hard job. I do enjoy it,” she said.

She said she usually delivers meals on Wednesdays and has filled in when needed. She’s busier during the summer, she said, filling in more often to deliver other routes.

She said she’s retired and doesn’t like to just sit around.

“It gets me out of the house and visiting with people and you get to know them a little after a while,” she said.


She says she likes visiting with the meal recipients and they are anxious to visit with someone so she will take a little time to do that before heading on to the next meal.

The center also serves meals on site, feeding from 15-18 people, Wegenke said. Those congregate meals are available at the James House, Gardenette and senior center. Streeter and Harvey also have meals at their centers. Quite a few attend the monthly evening meal that is offered at the senior center during the winter and then beginning in March twice a month, she said.

Progress meals with staff
James River Senior Center staff members, from left, Rhonda Hennings, head cook, Rhonda Sahr, office manager and Maureen Wegenke, executive director, pose for a photo in the facility's kitchen. John M. Steiner / The Sun

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