Serving the community during the COVID-19 pandemic: My experience with Meals on Wheels

Zachary Spiegla, Integrated Supply Management Student

Zach Spiegla standing outsideAs a student enrolled in WMU’s business ethics and sustainability class, I planned to complete 15 hours of service-learning with PeaceJam, an international organization with a mission to inspire youth through exposure to Nobel Peace laureates. My “plan” was to serve at WMU’s PeaceJam youth conference in March, where I was going to mentor children throughout the two-day event. Unfortunately, when COVID-19 started spreading throughout the country, the conference was postponed. So, there I was, halfway through the semester with no service-learning hours completed and no idea what organization could use my assistance. 

While many opportunities to serve were “off limits” because of social distancing, one organization that desperately needed help was Senior Services of Southwest Michigan. They provide Meals on Wheels—a program that offers meals at home to those who can’t purchase or prepare their own—throughout Kalamazoo to help combat senior isolation and hunger. I quickly learned how the system of drivers and “hoppers” works. We volunteered in teams of two; one person drove the route, and the other, the hopper, took the meal to the individual. I had the privilege of being the hopper, and it was fantastic. 

I was overwhelmed with how much gratitude I witnessed. The senior citizens I delivered meals to were always so happy to see me. The level of appreciation and excitement filled my heart with joy. Truthfully, I was nervous at first. I did not know what to expect. If it wasn’t for the driver, I would never have known where I was or how to get to the next residence. Despite these concerns, every time I dropped off another meal to an individual who could not leave their home, the smile on their face overcame my anxieties.  

My ability to serve others who are not able to get out made this experience one I will never forget. Fears about COVID-19 surround all of us. Even volunteers are sometimes afraid to leave their homes. However, the need for drivers and hoppers at Meals on Wheels persists. When I look back on the spring of 2020, I will no doubt remember online classes. However, I will also remember how the Haworth College of Business gave me the chance to serve others during this time of need.