Why I volunteer: Loneliness is truly an epidemic

Donna Mann

Donna Mann is a volunteer at Meals on Wheels of Asheville & Buncombe County. The organization delivers hot, nutritious meals and friendly visits to homebound seniors each weekday.

What inspired you to volunteer with Meals on Wheels? 

I started volunteering for Meals on Wheels at the beginning of the pandemic. I knew from volunteering with them in Texas that most of the drivers were elderly people themselves. Because the virus was disproportionately affecting older people, I thought as a younger retired person I should step up and step in.

What have you learned about the individuals you serve?

That loneliness is truly an epidemic, especially among older people. Most of the people on my route live alone. Many have no family nearby or anyone who can help them. I worked as a geriatric social worker and really enjoy older people. But anyone can be kind and take a few minutes to hear about someone’s life. You would be amazed at the stories they have to tell!

What is the greatest reward in the work you do? 

I often tell people that Meals on Wheels is more than lunch, especially during the pandemic. We may have been the only people that our clients had contact with. I went to one woman’s home, and she answered the door wearing two sweaters and a hat. I went inside and found that the temperature was 50 degrees. We figured out that her oil tank was empty, so the Meals on Wheels social worker called Grace Fuel Co., and they came right out and filled her tank.

What advice would you offer those thinking about volunteering?  

Really think about what makes you feel happy and fulfilled and look for that in a volunteer situation. There are so many opportunities to help, but you have to find the right fit. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few tries. When you find your joy, you will bring joy to others!


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