Prescott Meals on Wheels teen volunteering program a menu special
Nine local teens credit an inaugural, multi-generational summer volunteer program at Prescott Meals on Wheels with enlightening them about how offering a tray of food, a hot cup of coffee or some friendly conversation can make the day of a grandparent or great-grandparent living far away from family.
For two to three days a week this summer, teens from district, charter and private schools in the area donated time to serve a hot dinner in the agency’s Hilltop Café housed in the Adult Center on Rosser Street, as well as assemble meals for delivery to homebound clients. The teens also served as dining room greeters, provided busing services before and after the daily afternoon meal, and cashiered in the thrift store.
“I felt important because I was contributing to our little town,” said Jordyn Wurmser, a junior at BASIS Prescott. “I want to come back here on my (school) breaks. I felt I was part of a family.”
For Connor Uniacke, a Prescott High senior, this volunteering opportunity was not just a chance to give to others, but it also boosted his self-confidence, and showed him how he can make a difference.
“In school, I’m a quiet person. This was an opportunity to go out of my way to talk with different people,” Connor said.
He said he got kind of a kick out of how interested the senior clients were in all of the teen volunteers.
“They quizzed me about my life, but I didn’t mind,” said Connor who shared with clients that he one day hopes to design and sell his own clothing brand.
Fellow senior Joseph Molaskey, a special-education student, was able to forge “priceless” friendships as he delivered trays of food, a gift to the clients and to him, said his mother Maryann Devereux. In fact, she said, her son intends to continue volunteering every Monday.
For Chase Stedman, a fifth grader at Granite Mountain School in Prescott, whose mother, Billi Jo Stedman, is the Prescott Meals on Wheels volunteer coordinator and brainchild of this program, the best part of his day was seeing the smiles on seniors’ faces when he brought them their meal.
Like Connor, Chase said he found the seniors wanted to talk with him about his interests, including sports. The Diamondbacks baseball team proved a popular topic this summer, he noted.
One of the dining hall regulars liked to chat with BASIS sophomore Catherine Calvin about her school. He appreciated she is taking courses to prepare her to one day be an engineer, a career not open to women of his era.
Tri-City Prep sophomore Lacey Hansen said she was delighted to meet and regularly interact with a well-traveled woman from Greece now in her 90s who still plays bridge daily and stitches “amazing embroidery.”
“She’s just awesome,” said Lacey who worked in the agency thrift store and, as she gained some work skills, was able to hear “cool” stories from another generation.
Stedman is beyond delighted at how well the teens melded into the agency’s cadre of mostly retired adult volunteers.
The summer project was such a success that Stedman predicts not only will it expand next summer, but will entice some of the teens to volunteer their time during the school year.
“I knew this would be great for our teens and customers. I just didn’t know how amazing it would be for our current volunteers, and how much they would enjoy the multi-generational energy and experience,” Stedman said.
Regular dining room volunteer Vikki McCloud said the teens’ presence offered a very special ingredient to the Meals on Wheels experience.
“They’ve been phenomenal,” she McCloud declared.
“Lo and behold, this worked out better than we thought it might,” declared Prescott Meals on Wheels Executive Director Bert Ijams. “Not only have they been exceptionally helpful, but the diners and our adult volunteers have truly enjoyed the multi-generational presence here.”
She described a “magic” that occurs when elders and youth are able to offer something to one another.
“There is a whole new level of energy, connection and understanding that comes about,” Ijams said.
To volunteer is to change the life of the served and the server, Stedman said.
“They (teens) were all amazing,” Stedman said. “I already miss them.”
Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.