COMMUNITY PARTNER Lorrie Sheets Meals on Wheels volunteer spurred by personal experience
By JIM MARSH
Special to The Press
Lorrie Sheets knew Meals on Wheels of the Lehigh Valley “did good things,” but a personal family experience spurred her on to become a volunteer.
Sheets, of Salisbury Township, several years ago heard from her mother-in-law, Emma Sheets, how grateful she was to have meals delivered to her home each day.
The service allowed Emma to “age in place” in her home and not have to go to a senior care facility to have her basic needs met.
As part of the Meals on Wheels service, Emma received a daily delivery coordination call from a Meals on Wheels coordinator. As it was, the call also served as a welfare check on the widow who lived by herself. One day, Emma did not answer the call and that set off alarms with the organization, leading to the discovery she had fallen and broken a hip.
Sheets is convinced the Meals on Wheels service saved her mother-in-law from what could otherwise have been a deadly tragedy.
Sheets grew up in South Allentown. Other than time taken out to bear and raise two children, she worked as a career administrative assistant in the Lehigh Valley and, for a time, in Chicago.
During a nine-month lay-off when Mack Trucks moved its corporate headquarters and her job to North Carolina, Sheets filled her time as an office volunteer with Meals on Wheels.
With her administrative background, Sheets easily fit in, learning all aspects of the Meals on Wheels administration and client delivery system.
When she joined Olympus Corporation in Center Valley, Sheets saw an opportunity to leverage her Meals on Wheels background and broaden the volunteer delivery system in the southern Lehigh County area.
She found Olympus, as part of its community relations programs, allowed employees to work a certain number of paid hours each month in ways that gave back to the community.
She prepared and gave a presentation to management, which resulted in Meals on Wheels being designated a community partner with the corporation.
Sheets became a coordinator for Olympus employees who wanted to be part of the community outreach as meal delivery agents. As coordinator, she oversees the efforts of the almost 50 Olympus workers who became part of the volunteer effort.
She schedules the drivers, keeps track of individual community client menu and delivery requirements and even jumps in when a driver is not available.
Sheets describes the Olympus volunteers she works with as a “wonderful group.” She says they are so dedicated some even work on their days off to fill in as Meals on Wheels helpers.
She said the service is about much more than just the food. Volunteers provide a welcome interlude to the isolation many senior citizens and the disabled and disadvantaged feel with the limited human interaction their situations may impose.
The clients on a delivery route become almost like family, Sheets has observed, with the volunteers gaining experiences that are life affirming for them as well.
Since the coronavirus lockdown, and the increasing number of people working from home, Sheets said Meals on Wheels has seen, during the past six months, an increase in those who want to help out with meal delivery.
“There are always bad things that are going to be happening in our world,” Sheets observed. “But the good that comes out of adversity always seems to overcome the negativity, and it helps to always keep that top of mind.”
Sheets cited a family member’s interactions to support her observations.
Sheets’ father, Marty Wieczorek of Schnecksville, is also a volunteer delivery driver for the meals service. She said her father recently told her his volunteer work with Meals on Wheels has helped him through the COVID-19 shutdown’s dislocations.
“I don’t know what I’d do without this work,” Wieczorek told Sheets. “It gives me a purpose every day.”
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