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Volunteers, the recipients — and some who have been both benefit from meals program

Meal coordinator PLehman helps with packaging lunches for homebound seniors Thursday Hampshire Township Building.  Hampshire is just one places

Meal coordinator Pat Lehman helps with packaging lunches for homebound seniors, Thursday at the Hampshire Township Building. Hampshire is just one of the places the Salvation Army Golden Diners Nutrition program delivers to, to be distributed to area homebound seniors. February 7 , 2013 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 12, 2013 6:15AM

HAMPSHIRE — “I used to deliver for Hampshire-Burlington’s Meals on Wheels,” says 83-year-old Korean War veteran and retired locksmith Ray “Bud” Stout of Burlington. “Now I get Meals on Wheels.”

Two hours before volunteer Golden Diners deliverer Jim Ward of Hampshire had showed up at Stout’s door with a plastic plate containing a “crabby patty,” cole slaw, corn, whole-grain bread, a fruit cobbler and milk, Ward had driven to the Hampshire Township Building several miles away. Here for 13 years another volunteer, Pat Lehman, has been organizing the lists of shut-ins who receive Golden Diner deliveries (now five to seven a day) and volunteers who take the food to them (two or three a day, each working about one day a week).

After being prepared in a kitchen in downtown Elgin, the lunches are trucked to the township building by part-time Salvation Army employee Dan Holda, then driven in the volunteers’ own cars out to each recipient.

Only five meals will be delivered today through this distribution center, and only two volunteer delivery drivers will be needed. Ward, 65, is a licensed practical nurse who worked for the Kane County Health Department until he got laid off two years ago. Today he will deliver to two shut-ins who live in or near Burlington. Connie Walker, 62, is a retired physical therapist who will go to the three clients in Hampshire.

Both say they joined the program because, like Lehman, they attend St. Charles Boromeo Catholic Church and Lehman asked for volunteers through the church bulletin.

“You stop and talk to them,” Ward says. “As well as providing nutrition, our visits are a well-being check. Some of these people don’t get any visits from their families.”

“I just like being around elderly people,” Ward says. “When I used to work on a private ambulance, I loved going out on calls to the nursing homes.”

It’s a bit of socializing that sometimes turns out to be very important, they note.

“I had to call the paramedics on one of my visits,” Walker said. “I was talking with the client and all of a sudden I realized he wasn’t talking anymore. We later found out he had experienced an epilepsy attack.”

“Both of my clients have caretakers, so I could just leave the food at the door with them,” Ward says. “But I try to pop inside and speak to the guys a little, to see how they’re doing.”

Dan Holda, who lives in Geneva and drives the delivery truck to Hampshire from the Elgin kitchen, is a 39-year-old part-time Golden Diners employee. He is paid but says he began by volunteering to deliver such meals in the Carpentersville area.

Each weekday morning, Holda says, he drops off 100 meals at five distribution points like this. Then he personally delivers 17 meals to individual clients in Marengo. In the afternoon he goes to work at his other part-time job, which also has a mission aspect to it — selling “volun-tourism” trips that combine sightseeing with building homes for Third World people.

When Ward arrives at Stout’s home, the old veteran is sitting in a chair, barely able to move on his own because of severe arthritis. But before that and a heart condition turned him into a shut-in, Stout says, “Meals on Wheels had 32 customers in the Hampshire-Burlingon area and I delivered to nine of them myself.”

Ward’s second delivery takes him far into the countryside outside Burlington, where retired farmer and carpenter Harold Jones is suffering from brain cancer.

“I’ll be 93 in two weeks,” Jones tells a reporter as Ward unwraps the lunch plate and Jones’s Latin American caretaker stands nearby. “I put in a pond on my other farm and I caught that fish up on the wall in that pond. I didn’t catch that deer, though. He got hit by a car.”

“I’ve had 100 treatments for this cancer,” Jones said. “I’ve had a lot of visits with the good Lord. He knows I’m ready. But there’s a long line in heaven, so I have to wait just a while.”

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