Not everyone gets their meals delivered in a bright orange Jeep, but the people on Deb Hekker’s route do. They know when the flashy vehicle pulls up into their driveway that they will soon receive not only a tasty and delicious meal, but a visit with someone who really cares about them.
Community service comes easy to Deb, who spent two years in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and then five years working on a kibbutz in Israel. She began delivering meals one Christmas more than 20 year ago when her parents went out of town for the holidays. With nowhere to go, she thought she would volunteer to deliver meals to those who could not get out. Her one day of service soon turned into a six-year commitment of delivering meals on holidays and weekends. But then romance got in the way.
“I met my husband,” Deb said. “We got married and then became long-haul truck drivers. I wasn’t in town long enough to have a regular route.” But three years ago, she and her husband retired from the trucking business. One of the first things Deb did was to sign up to deliver meals. She now delivers several days a week out of our Lents Center in Southeast Portland.
“All of the drivers at this center are a bunch of cornballs!” Deb said with a laugh. “We’re like a social club. We meet for coffee before we deliver our routes and then eat lunch together when we get back. We even go out to dinner and the movies on occasion.”
But what keeps Deb coming back week after week is the people on her route. “I love the people on my route. They have absolutely no filter and say exactly what pops into their heads. And they all make me laugh! I enjoy delivering to them as much as they enjoy receiving the meals.”
Deb delivers a lot more than just food. One of her clients enjoys gardening and watching birds, so Deb built and delivered several bird feeders to her. She brings large print books for another client who enjoys reading history. And for the others on her route, it’s the conversation, the companionship and the connection to the outside world. “These elders have lived long lives, seen and experienced a lot,” she said. “They have interesting stories to tell and just need someone to tell them to.”
If you would like to deliver meals to homebound seniors, visit us at volunteer.mealsonwheelspeople.org.