Sometimes the smallest gestures make the biggest impact. One of the lesser known benefits provided by Cattaraugus County is the Meals on Wheels Program. This program serves meals to those over 60 years old who can’t necessarily prepare all of their meals themselves - whether it be as a result of an accident, illness, or frailty. In the Ellicottville area, Colleen Blanchard is the Nutrition Site Manager for the Cattaraugus County Department of Aging’s Senior Wellness and Nutrition Program, which organizes Meals on Wheels.
Colleen, originally from Hamilton, Ontario, started coming to Ellicottville often when she met her now husband David Blanchard (who also volunteers for Meals on Wheels). For years Colleen worked for her family company that distributed Nestle and Haagen Daz Ice Cream, but after much time spent in our quaint little town, she fell in love with the community and decided she wanted to find a way to give back. In 2007 she started volunteering for Meals on Wheels, and in 2008, Colleen was hired as the Nutrition Site Manager.
“We service the town and village of Ellicottville; the majority of our recipients live in the village. All meals are prepared daily and fresh from The Pines in Machias, NY, and only need to be heated up once they arrive at their resident destination.”
Currently there are four volunteers who take time out of their day to deliver meals in Ellicottville. That’s fifteen meals per day, Monday through Friday. Colleen expressed the need for additional volunteers. “We are looking for interested volunteers who have a flexible schedule, seeing as how delivery time is during regular working hours - noon time. Volunteers must be compassionate and sociable as well. Sometimes this visit is the only human interaction these meal recipients have all day.”
When talking with Colleen, she explained that these efforts go beyond just delivering the meal. Sometimes she will sit with the recipient and have a conversation, help take their garbage out, or even just open a water bottle. “This makes some of their days, and I couldn’t feel better about being there to help.” All in all, the food is great but the social component of it is even better. “If someone seems to be having a bad day or are just a bit off, I will get a hold of their emergency contact so that they are sure to reach out to them that day.”
The Meals on Wheels program supports homebound recipients by helping them preserve their independence, delay or prevent nursing home placement, and improve or maintain their current health status. Without volunteers, the delivery of meals would be impossible. Colleen reiterated the need for volunteers, telling me how it is such an important and worthwhile cause. “It feels so good to give back, and to give the recipients more of that precious human/social connection.”
If you are interesting in joining Colleen as a volunteer, you can call her directly at 716-720-3097. For more information regarding the Cattaraugus County Meals on Wheels Program, you can find them on Facebook (yes, they are connected to the social media world), or visit them at www.cattco.org/aging/nutrition-and-wellness-services. It is these small programs and gestures by Ellicottville residents that sets this great community apart and why so many from all over end up staying.