Volunteer Paul Kriston prepares to deliver a meal for the KAFASI 'Meals on Wheels' program.

‘Meals on Wheels’ offers much-needed service for most vulnerable

KAFASI volunteers feed, check on seniors daily

By Daniel GaitanKENOSHA.COM

Gaitan is a proud Kenosha native who has covered his local community for much of his professional career. The DePaul University graduate served previously as an award-winning writer for the Kenosha News.

Every week a team of volunteers offer much-needed meals and conversations to hundreds of seniors across Kenosha County.

Kenosha Area Family and Aging Services’ ‘Meals on Wheels’ program offers free or low-cost home-delivered meals to the aged, sick and disabled. It helps this vulnerable and underserved population remain at home and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations with safety checks. It fosters critical relationships between clients and volunteer delivery drivers. 

Although the hot or cold meals are usually delivered between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., KAFASI employees and volunteers get up bright and early to prepare them.

Volunteer Paul Kriston and KAFASI ‘Meals on Wheels’ coordinator De’Muria Ware pose with some of the meals that are packaged and ready to be delivered.

De’Muria Ware, the city’s ‘Meals on Wheels’ coordinator, said some 250 meals are delivered each day. She said the need has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic struck southeastern Wisconsin because seniors don’t want to risk exposure at grocery stores. 

“We temp the meals each day and try them to make sure they’re safe,” Ware said. “The (clients) are so thankful. … They’re appreciative and get to have conversations with drivers that maybe they wouldn’t get to have with someone. Maybe they don’t have family or someone they can talk to day-to-day.”

Most of the food is provided by the Kenosha Achievement Center and Hoffman House. It’s kept warm or cold at KAFASI, 7730 Sheridan Road, in coolers until volunteer drivers pick them up for delivery. Some clients receive a hot meal and a cold meal each day so they can save one for snacking.

“We start out around 5 a.m.,” Ware added. “We have approximately 150 volunteers each week.” 

Safety checks 

Ware said safety check-ups are just as crucial as the meals. 

“It’s not just a meal, it’s a wellness check,” she said. “We can’t leave any meal unattended.” 

“The seniors really look forward to it.”

– Paul Kriston, ‘Meals on Wheels’ volunteer

If a client doesn’t answer the door, the volunteer driver will call Ware. Ware will then call the client, his or her family members and local law enforcement if warranted.

“It’s very important,” Ware said. “When I was delivering, I had a client fall and when I was walking away I heard that person yell out ‘Help!’ It’s an experience and (clients) are so thankful we help them out.” 

Shadowing a volunteer

Paul Kriston, 66, has been delivering meals for the past three years. The devout Christian said he feels called by God to help the vulnerable. His mother was also a client in the program. 

“When the elderly get older they need help and we’ll all be in that position one day if we make it that far,” he said. Kriston delivered 10 meals of sausage, potato wedges, baked beans, veggies and juices last week. It takes him a couple of hours.

“The seniors really look forward to it,” Kriston said. “They like the fact that you’re also visiting on top of delivering meals.”

Although some clients aren’t so keen on long conversations and just want their meals, Kriston said most of his clients relish the attention. 

“It’s good, healthy food and Paul helps me out whether it’s a bad, good or somewhere in-between day,” said client Andy, who asked that his last name be kept private. “Paul does his job and then some. He always helps me out. He’s a good guy to have around – especially when the weather’s bad. He knocks it out of the park.”