There’s a knock on her apartment door. Seventy years old and still living on her own, it’s the only knock she’s heard all day. When she opens the door, she sees a bright smile and familiar face. It’s Ellen Wing, Catholic Charities Meals on Wheels volunteer, bringing her the hot meal she depends on. She takes the meal and waves at the car in the driveway, where Ellen’s husband, Larry, waits patiently for Ellen to return and drive to the next stop.
Since August 2005, Larry and Ellen Wing have delivered meals to seniors in need each week through Catholic Charities Meals on Wheels program in Lake County. Their route varies from 7 to 12 stops, taking them about 30 miles around Lake County with a trunk load of hot meals for supper and an additional paper bag packed with milk, fruit, salad, and bread. They heard of the opportunity through their church bulletin, and having recently retired, decided to dedicate one day a week to the program. Twelve years later, they’re still doing it and love every visit.
“It’s a much-needed program and up here in Lake County there are a lot of needy people,” Ellen said. “We’ve met so many wonderful people over the years and hope to keep it up.”
Sometimes the visit is the simple exchange of food. Other times, those receiving the meals ask Ellen to sit down and talk awhile.
“In some cases, we know they wouldn’t have a meal that day if Meals on Wheels didn’t exist,” Ellen said. “We could be the only people they see all day long if they have no family in the area. Some are active and some are just getting by, but they all look forward to getting the meals and are happy to see us.”
When they first started delivering, Ellen had an experience that made her realize the weight of their task. It was a Monday morning and she hadn’t seen the woman they were delivering to since Friday. When she answered the door, Ellen said she could tell the woman was in immense pain and could barely walk.
“She had fallen over the weekend,” Ellen said. “I told her she needed to call her doctor or call 911. They ended up taking her to hospital.” At the hospital, they not only discovered she had broken her hip but also that she had a serious heart issue.
“We saved her life,” Ellen said tearfully.
Other times, Ellen and Larry have pulled up to the house, and clients have passed away over the weekend. It takes a toll but they carry on.
“It can be a shock,” Ellen said. “We think about them all the time.”