East Windsor woman volunteers 35 years for Meals on Wheels

CAFCA | June 14, 2016 |

Kathy Crouch of East Windsor was recognized last week for her 35 years as a volunteer driver for the East Windsor branch of the Meals on Wheels program.

Through the program, Crouch delivers nutritious meals on a weekly basis to local seniors and “shut-ins,” people confined to their homes as a result of medical constraints.

The program currently is in need of more people like Crouch to help deliver meals for the Community Renewal Team, or CRT, based in East Hartford.

For Crouch, the program initially served as an outlet in which she could carve out a little time away from her husband, with whom she ran a business. She said their desks weren’t even 6 feet apart.

“By volunteering, I knew that I could have at least two hours each week where I could have a separate identity,” Crouch said.

The program did not fail her. As a volunteer driver, Crouch has encountered many interesting people, and developed a network of clients she describes as “part of my family.”

For many of the isolated seniors, the program’s drivers are the only people they may see throughout their day. Crouch and other volunteers use their role to put a smile on the seniors’ faces, spending much time conversing with their clients, even dressing up in costumes for Halloween.

Crouch has seen firsthand the impact the program has made on her clients. She recalled one occasion where a woman she was delivering to had slipped and fallen in her house an hour before the scheduled delivery. Knowing that Meals and Wheels would soon be at her house, the woman stayed put and waited for Crouch to contact help.

Throughout her many years as a volunteer, Crouch has seen the program evolve and expand to make the meals more appealing to the customers.

When she began at the CRT, the elderly nutrition program — the first in the state — was only 8 years old. She recalls the cold meals came in brown paper bags and the hot meals in foil trays like TV dinners, which CRT stamped out at the then-headquarters in the old Fuller-Brush building on Main Street in Hartford.

“Everything has improved,” Crouch said. “They make [the meals] look attractive now. The quality of items is really nice, too.”

Paralleling this improvement in meal quality and appearance, Crouch also has experienced an evolution of her own. She now serves to the 84-year-old son-in-law of one of her original recipients.

Along with many of her other clients, Crouch has formed a strong bond with this recipient, sending him postcards from vacations and marking his birthday on her calendar.

The Meals on Wheels program has certainly helped Crouch to form the identity she was in search of 35 years ago.

“It is very rewarding to help these people,” she said. “You get more out of it than they do.”

Last year, CRT served 118,413 meals to 720 homebound clients, with the help of 102 volunteers. Meals are largely underwritten by federal funding that comes from the Older Americans Act and is funneled through the Area Agencies on Aging, which is the North Central Area Agency on Aging for north central Connecticut.

The Meals on Wheels program for the Enfield/East Windsor area is in great need of volunteers. Participants may choose their time commitment, and may even volunteer as a substitute driver only.

For more information on the program and volunteering, contact the Meals on Wheels East Hartford at 860-292-8279, or visit the website at www.eastwindsor-ct.gov/public_documents/ewindsorct_seniorser/nutrition