When the Trump administration released its budget proposal for the coming federal fiscal year, many journalists and activists focused in on potential cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, a program that brings hot meals to elderly residents. An online publication cited US Senator Bernie Sanders’ (VT-I) strong opposition to the proposed cuts. “You’re going to throw seniors in the state of Wyoming or the state of Vermont off the Meals on Wheels program, maybe the one nutritious program that they get a day,” Sanders was quoted as saying to budget director Mick Mulvaney (Niv Elis, The Hill, May 27, 2017, 03:19 PM EDT). Facebook feeds and other social media were full of outrage over the possibility that the Meals on Wheels program would be victim to an austere budget.
Meanwhile in Castleton, the local Meals on Wheels program faces a threat of another sort. The challenge to the program in Castleton is a dwindling team of volunteers. We deliver three days each week—Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays—and when we are operating with a full team of volunteers, each volunteer will participate once each month. The time commitment on the days we deliver is 90 minutes to 2 hours. In that short time, you can brighten the day of people who have few visitors and have trouble getting out, and you bring nutrition that they otherwise would not have.
To paraphrase Castleton President Dave Wolk, this is another opportunity for students to make a difference in our community as they prepare to make a difference in the world. For faculty and staff, it is an opportunity to make a big difference with a fixed and limited commitment of time. Additionally, when we have a sufficient number of volunteers, you get to know someone new in the Castleton community. Through Meals on Wheels, I have personally shared several wonderful conversations with people at Castleton that I might otherwise never have met. In this way, the program helps connect our small university while we provide a valuable service to the broader community.
Meals on Wheels is Castleton’s longest, continuous community partner; in 2017, Castleton gave the Community Partner Award to Meals on Wheels, as our former academic dean, Joe Mark, talked about the long history we share. Please keep this partnership alive with a contribution of your time; many hands make light work. Contact Chrispin White (Chrispin.White@castleton.edu), Director of Community Engagement, if you want to learn more.
– Rich Clark