By Joel McIver
Meals on Wheels delivery provides a rewarding experience for many volunteers, but it is greatly amplified when the experience is shared with a loved one.
Andrew Hano was lucky enough to experience the satisfaction of volunteering firsthand with his daughter. Andrew first volunteered to deliver Meals on Wheels in 2004 because he wanted a service opportunity he could perform with his then three-year-old daughter, Abigail, and found it suited him perfectly. At the time, he was a stay-at-home dad and wanted to not only help others, but connect personally with the community.
“Meal delivery provided me, Abigail, and later my son, with a broader view of Winston-Salem. We visited parts of the city that we would never have known existed otherwise. We have met and developed a relationship with a variety of people, each with such interesting stories.
Providing an experience that would shape her children in a positive way was also a major motivator. “I wanted an experience that would empower Abigail and her brother. Children learn by doing. A child, even three years old, can do meals on wheels. She carried the meal. She knocked on the door. She said hello.
Andrew’s foresight seems to have paid off. Today, Abigail is a sophomore at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, studying global health and biology with a minor in Spanish as she prepares for a future career helping people. Abigail said: “The early experiences I had as a volunteer certainly impacted the person I am today and the passion I have for an equitable distribution of opportunity. My current major focuses on the allocation of resources, particularly those related to health care, but also takes into account factors that can affect a person’s health that are beyond their control, such as race , environment and socio-economic status.
Abigail continues to give back to the community. “Plus, I’ve enjoyed being involved with a number of non-profit organizations. I wouldn’t have strived to be a part of all of these amazing opportunities if I hadn’t been exposed to service and the importance of knowing my entire community at such a young age.
Andrew says building relationships is one of the best parts of volunteer work. They got to know the attendees and were eager to check in and share the latest news. “I had one attendee (pre-pandemic) who wouldn’t let me go until she hugged me. Best part of my day!”
Memories of volunteering as a child continue to immortalize and inspire Abigail and have shaped how she views volunteering today. She said: “I think it’s very important that every child has the opportunity to volunteer because exposure to the challenges faced by members of a community can have a lasting impact on that child as they grows and begins to form his personal values. ”
Seeing the impact volunteering has had on his children gives Andrew a sense of pride. He quickly notices that his two children continue to get along well with older adults and readily accept service opportunities. “Abigail, in particular, is considering careers in public health,” Andrew said. “Volunteering at a young age and continuing to do so over time has instilled service in them as part of their identity.
Although being a full-time out-of-state student keeps her from often joining her father on the Meals-on-Wheels routes, she likes to pitch in when she gets home from school. “It’s exciting to deliver meals now that I have so much more experience under my belt, as well as more knowledge about our community and the world as a whole. There are times when I am deeply struck by what we do because I understand so much better the work and the importance of these deliveries.
Abigail also expressed her pride in her father. “As I grew older and understood the importance of volunteering in his community, it became clear to me that my father had presented me with something that would shape my values, my way of thinking, my studies and my future work. His concern for others is one of the qualities I most hope others will see in me one day. I’m infinitely proud to be able to tell others about my dad’s work because, to me, it’s one of the coolest things you can do.
Andrew loves having the opportunity to give birth with his daughter during his school holidays. In a way, that comes full circle on their meals-on-wheels journey. “I enjoyed the time we spent together when she was a preschooler and I appreciate the time now. It’s also good that she can drive!
For more information on senior services and the Meals on Wheels program, visit www.seniorservicesinc.org.
Joel McIver is the Vice President of Community Engagement for Seniors Services.