Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.
Grand Rapids Magazine spoke with 45-year-old Bruce Phillips Jr. about his 23 years of volunteer work with Meals on Wheels, 2900 Wilson Ave. SW. Meals on Wheels has been serving the Grand Rapids area since 1984 and continues to assist homebound seniors within the community. While COVID-19 presented challenges, the organization has continued its work, helping homebound individuals.
How long have you been involved with Meals on Wheels? I’ve been volunteering for Meals on Wheels since 1997. I started when the program was at 1279 Cedar St. NE, behind the Ronald McDonald House.
What are your duties as a volunteer? I have done the dishes in the kitchen area. I have also ridden with the truck driver and helped deliver meals to different sites. For the past 12 years, I’ve been volunteering at the Meals on Wheels food pantry. At the pantry, I assist clients with their groceries and bring their food to their cars. I also help stock the shelves and clean areas inside the building.
“In 1997, Meals on Wheels rovided me with a volunteer opportunity, andI have been here ever since.”
Bruce Phillips Jr.
How did you get involved? I had a horrible car accident in 1996 where I suffered a traumatic brain injury. I was in a coma for seven weeks at the hospital and then I spent three months doing rehab at Spectrum. I needed to learn how to talk, walk and function again. I continued my rehab at Mary Free Bed. After my time there, I was sent to Hope Network, where I continued my rehabilitation and eventually started living independently again. In 1997, Meals on Wheels provided me with a volunteer opportunity, and I have been here ever since.
Who does Meals on Wheels serve? Meals on Wheels serves seniors 60 years and older who reside in Kent and Allegan counties. It provides home-delivered meals, groceries from food pantries, in-home health assessments, lunches at dining centers and fresh produce vouchers to select candidates during the summer months.
How does Meals on Wheels operate? Meals on Wheels produces nutritious meals for homebound seniors that are frozen and re-heatable. After the meals are produced, they are sent with volunteers and staff drivers on 65 routes to be delivered three days a week. The amount of meals a senior receives depends on their situation. A health assessment is given to each senior after they register to receive meals. For the pantry, the food is ordered and delivered to the pantry from several different vendors. A senior can shop twice a month to receive groceries. Meat, dairy, produce, dry, canned goods and bakery are some of the items they can receive. Each month, a senior can save $150 on their grocery budget by visiting the pantry. Meals on Wheels also produces shelf-stable emergency meal packs to be used in case of an emergency situation, serving many areas in Michigan.
How has Meals on Wheels been helping during COVID-19? Meals on Wheels has continued to operate through the COVID-19 pandemic. We have home-delivered meals and pantry programs both continuing to operate.
How can the public help with Meals on Wheels? The best thing the public can do right now is to either give financially or donate shelf-stable food (primarily canned protein items).