Every other Friday, Judy Sheppard and Deb DeGroot grab lunch. Not for themselves, but for 14-20 of the individuals that participate in the home-delivered meals program in Jackson County.
Sheppard and DeGroot have been delivering meals together for the last year, which is something they have both come to enjoy.
“I enjoy this so much. I’ve told Judy that if there are days that Lyn gets desperate and needs us to go, I’m willing to go,” DeGroot said. “You feel good after you do it. I always feel good the days that I deliver meals.”
Lyn Gates, program specialist with the Jackson County Department of Health and Human Services, is the coordinator for the program and she counts on people like Sheppard and DeGroot to help deliver nearly 80 meals every day, except for Sunday.
“Very, very important. They probably deliver 100 meals or better a week out of those totals,” Gates said about the importance of volunteers to the home-delivered meals program.
Of the pair, Sheppard is the one that started volunteering with the program first.
“After I retired I thought I’d do the things I wasn’t able to do then [before retiring], because I’m not one to just sit around. I stay busy, let’s put it that way,” Sheppard said.
Since retiring from the courthouse as a legal secretary from the District Attorney’s office, Sheppard has volunteered at the cemetery, at the United Methodist Church including being on the church choir and helping with family meal night and she is a guardian for someone in a nursing home.
She also has been a member of the Aging Committee in Jackson County since October 2014.
“They started talking about all of the programs that we have here in Jackson County for elderly, for disabled people, it was just amazing. I was blown out of the water. I didn’t know they had all of that stuff,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard then convinced DeGroot to join the Aging Committee and help her deliver meals. Sheppard said that DeGroot is an easy mark when she is looking for a volunteer.
While delivering meals, DeGroot keeps track of the meals they need to deliver and checks them off on the sheet, while Sheppard jogs in and out delivering the meals.
“They have their names on them so we know which ones to give to them. Some of them may have special dietary needs and have certain things they can’t have,” DeGroot said explaining the process.
Once Sheppard grabs the right meal, she delivers it and checks in on the person.
“You get really used to them. A lot of times you just knock and walk in. They all have their little things that they do,” Sheppard said explaining that she spoils them sometimes and talks to them because for some she is the only person they will see that day.
Sheppard said that is one of the many benefits of the program, “I know they’ve had times when someone has fallen and you have to call. We all have our cell phones with us and we will call 911 for them if we need to, but it is nice that you can just check on them.”
The pair used to work down the hall from each other at the courthouse, which is how they got to be good friends. DeGroot worked in the personnel department most of the time, but also worked with corporation counsel and with the DHHS before retiring in 2005.
Sheppard has been married for 55 years to Rus and together they have three children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
DeGroot has been married for 33 years to Ray and together they raised four boys. They now have eleven grandchildren.
If you would like to volunteer or be added to the list to get meals delivered, please call Lyn Gates at 715-284-4301 extension 370.
The program requests donations from those who receive the meals, but no one is required to pay for the service. Individuals that request a meal are required to undergo a home assessment and must be home-bound or nutritionally challenged.