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What would make a healthy 47-year-old woman give up a successful career as the head of digital ops for a digital marketing company? For Melanie Kinney, the decision to move to Memphis to spend time caring for her aging father was an easy one. That precious time was a turning point for Melanie, and she determined that she would begin a new chapter of life as a volunteer who improves the lives of others.
Soon after her beloved father died, Melanie joined the Meals on Wheels @ the Crossroads team of volunteers. Melanie feels a strong commitment to the program which provides nutritious food as well as a daily check-in to senior citizens and others in need throughout Washington County. Each day, volunteers either help with meal preparation, or with delivering the meals. There are 11 routes, covering a large area about 15 miles in each direction from the McMurray kitchen and serving approximately 150 meals per day. Meals are made from scratch and are healthy, tasty, and attractive. Special dietary needs of clients are also met.
Melanie greatly enjoyed being part of a team of important workers and valued by the recipients of our meals. She said that being at Meals on Wheels has “provided her with another whole family!” While in the kitchen, volunteers will talk about their lives, sharing experiences and laughter until it is time to place the hot trays, soup and sandwiches and dessert into bags for each route. Melanie enjoys these discussions, including talking to the dishwasher guys about fishing. She takes the stories home to share with her husband and children over dinner. Many of our older volunteers have lost spouses and live alone, so this time together with friends doing good work for others is an essential part of life for them, giving them the opportunity to be part of a community, and to give back.
After being on the kitchen team for many months, Melanie had heard enough stories about the clients who receive our meals that she wanted to add food delivery to her volunteer experiences. She now drives a regular route in Canonsburg, and often adds a second route which travels to Bethel Square Senior Apartments. Melanie loves taking meals to our senior clients, grateful to have a chance to give them a portion of the care and support she was able to give her father during his illness. Melanie, like all of our volunteers, enjoys getting to know the clients, and checking in on them. For many, these Meals on Wheels delivery people are the only live faces our clients see throughout the day and they cherish the opportunity for conversation. Melanie talks to various clients about jewelry, the Appalachian and Allegheny mountains, children and grandchildren, health issues, and whatever else is on their hearts and minds at that moment. Lately, many clients have expressed frustrations and fears over the pandemic. They are truly grateful to be able to avoid going out to get food. (Since March, we have also delivered toiletries and paper products to clients in need.)
Melanie is an extraordinary volunteer, going above and beyond in her desire to help others. She radiates a joy that is infectious. It is a joy that clearly comes from the reward of helping to enrich the quality of people’s lives. Melanie teaches her children to always pay it forward. She tells them, “Don’t give me a Christmas gift; Volunteer and tell me about it, and give money to important causes.” That is an aspiration that can change the world.