Amy Honeycutt has worked for 31 years in healthcare, and she knows a thing or two about nutritious foods.
“Empty-calorie foods can do more harm than good,” Amy says. “As someone with a clinical background, it’s so important that people have access to nutritious foods.”
So, when she was offered the chance to cook for residents in the area who relied on Meals on Wheels for food, Amy jumped at the chance.
Since November 2018, Amy and a crew from Holston Medical Group gather on the first Thursday of the month to start cooking. The meals they create are diabetic friendly and the chefs in the kitchen make sure not to add salt.
In all, they cook and box 233 meals for Meals on Wheels of Kingsport, serving elderly and disabled residents who can’t make lunch for themselves.
“We are ‘more than just a meal,’” says Liza Harmon, an HMG volunteer for Meals on Wheels. “Our drivers provide social contact and friendly checks to our meal recipients. These special connections help us monitor our clients’ well-being and brighten their day. If the driver finds that a client is in need of assistance, we call emergency contact numbers for them.”
Community of Caring
Meals on Wheels was started in Kingsport in 1972 by three local women who saw a need in the community. The delivery of one meal a day helps those who need it, like seniors and other disabled people, remain independent.
Empty-calorie foods can do more harm than good. As someone with a clinical background, it’s so important that people have access to nutritious foods.
The program delivers more than 200 meals each day and approximately 56,000 meals each year. Volunteers are responsible for cooking and/or delivering the meals. It takes about 90 minutes to drive the route to drop off meals in the area.
“We have so many success stories about our recipients, but one comes to mind,” Liza says. “We had a doctor that wrote on a report for a recipient that he was deconditioning due to lack of proper nutrition. We got the recipient enrolled and since enrolling in the program, his health has improved greatly, and he is doing much better.”
Even people with mild illnesses can heal faster by eating nutritious food routinely.
The recipients of Meals on Wheels food don’t pay for the service. The primary source of funding for Meals on Wheels of Kingsport is through the United Way of Greater Kingsport. Meals on Wheels rely on other sources of income through donations from individuals, business, churches and grants to make up the difference.
Liza says that it takes more than $14,000 each month to keep the program running smoothly.
Food is Love
In the past year, volunteers like Amy and her crew from HMG have devoted more than 2,000 hours of time to local charities like Meals on Wheels. Through HMG’s “Mission into Motion” initiative, we have provided time and donations to serve local not-for-profit charities, churches and schools.
Amy, who has worked at HMG for all of her 31 years, was recruited by her colleague, Michelle McDavid, to join and start a Meals on Wheels cooking team.
“Being able to take our teamwork outside the walls of our offices to serve others helps us develop stronger teamwork and relationships,” she says.
She is joined by friends and HMG colleagues: Michelle McDavid, Kim Rogers, Barsha Grant, Ammie Warner, Tory Lorimer and Samantha Sizemore. Through the Mission into Motion program at HMG, the team is encouraged to use their volunteer time to make sure that people served by HMG are supported even when they don’t come to the physician’s office.
“In my current role, I don’t get to interact much with our patients, so it gives me a great deal of pride that our team can provide this level of support by meeting a need that supports overall health,” says Amy, who is an operations manager at HMG. “It’s heartwarming to see how our efforts truly change lives.”
How to Help
The Meals on Wheels program has seen its funding decrease in the last few years, unfortunately. It takes 340 drivers and 160 meal preparers to keep the program moving each month, Liza says.
Families or individuals in the area that want to help but don’t have time can donate money through churches and individual businesses, or encourage their own church and community centers to join as volunteers.
There are some recipients that only receive food on the weekends, and those slots are typically filled by area churches. During the week, families and community members can donate one lunch hour to deliver to residents. That’s how Liza got started.
“When I moved back to Kingsport in 1986, I had been away for 17 years and really did not know anyone except family,” Liza says. “A neighbor asked me if I would like to join their Meals on Wheels cooking team. Saying ‘yes’ was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I enjoyed the challenge of preparing and serving around 140 meals within three hours. I liked that Meals on Wheels was an organization that was made up of all volunteers and everyone seemed to love what they were doing.”
Volunteers can start with a one-day-per-month schedule, either cooking (3 hours) or delivering meals (1.5 hours).
Receive a Meal
If you or someone close to you could use help from Meals on Wheels, the program is always accepting applicants.
The nutritious meals are prepared for those who can’t regularly shop or cook for themselves. Anyone recovering from a recent surgery is also encouraged to apply, even on a temporary basis.
“The process is simple: apply, we review the application, have an interview with the potential recipient, a healthcare provider must complete part of the application and we can then make a determination of qualification,” Liza says.
Kingsport citizens or their family members who wish to fill out an application can find it on the Meals on Wheels website.
To volunteer: call 423-247-4511 or visit the Meals on Wheels website and complete the volunteer application.
To donate money: please send checks or money orders to P.O. Box 3346, Kingsport, TN 37664. All donations are tax deductible.