Some Milton-area senior citizens were greeted with an unexpected surprise when they opened their doors Tuesday morning.
Volunteers from The Gathering Place were delivering the seniors food as part of a regular meal delivery program. The seniors knew the meals were coming; some have a to-the-minute expectation about when their food will arrive each day.
But what they didn’t expect Tuesday was a group of Milton Middle School students who were helping deliver the food for lunch and dinner.
This was the second year middle school students partnered with The Gathering Place to deliver prepped meals around the holidays. Tuesday’s menu: sloppy Joes, baked beans and a sandwich.
The students were part of the middle school’s Unity Team, which promotes inclusivity. The club also works with Special Olympics, Polar Plunge and other charitable organizations, Communications Supervisor Jerry Schuetz said.
“One of the things the Unity Team does is it works to ensure that people of all abilities feel welcome in our community,” Schuetz said. “The (meals) program provides meals to people with limited mobility, people who aren’t able to get out as frequently or get out to The Gathering Place to enjoy a meal here.”
Schuetz hoped students would appreciate how many people in the Milton area have limited abilities and that they would help those people feel welcomed, he said.
Schuetz, District Administrator Tim Schigur and Middle School Principal Matt Biederwolf drove small groups of students throughout the Milton area. Each group tagged behind a regular volunteer delivery driver.
Mary Kay Mullen led the journey within Milton city limits.
She stocked her SUV’s back seat with a large container of bagged sandwiches and milk cartons for lunch. A cooler full of hamburger mix, beans and a roll inside compartmentalized dinner trays sat in her trunk.
Schuetz’s group—eighth-graders Cassidy Laufenberg, Lydia Miller, Maddy Schuetz and Emma Smith—took turns taking meals to the seniors’ doors. Many meal recipients appeared happy to see new faces and wished the group Merry Christmas.
One woman, Maxine Harris, showed the girls her new, ruby red nails.
“The students love this opportunity because it affords them the chance to meet people they normally wouldn’t get to,” Jerry Schuetz said. “The senior citizens in our community absolutely love it because it provides them an opportunity to meet the many young, good kids we have in our school district.”
The students were soft-spoken about what they did Tuesday. Smith said she enjoyed meeting new people. Miller said it fit with the Unity Team’s mission of getting involved in the community.
Mullen has been delivering meals for years. She’s a retired nurse and showed evidence of her caretaking career during her brief interactions with the seniors.
It’s hard to get to know the recipients too well because she can’t stay for more than a minute or two to talk. The next person on the list is always waiting for a meal, she said.
“I don’t really get to know them, but they see a familiar face, and they recognize you,” Mullen said. “I like to do it because I know these people need the meal and they appreciate you bringing the food.”