A Milton woman has been volunteering for Meals on Wheels at RiverWoods Senior Living Community since their inception in 1972. Mary Ellen Bartholomew is now 90 years old, but her volunteer service to Meals on Wheels never ended, and she’s been delivering meals for 46 years.
Mary Ellen grew up in Milton and graduated from Milton High School in 1946. She then graduated from Bloomsburg University with an elementary education degree. Mary Ellen worked as a teacher briefly before staying home to raise her six children, four daughters and two sons. One day at Mary Ellen’s church, Trinity Church in Milton, a new associate pastor came and spoke to the congregation about the Meals on Wheels program. Mary Ellen and her best friend Jane Kaar signed up to deliver for Meals on Wheels every Tuesday. They would do their delivery route and then always go to the Arrowhead restaurant for lunch afterwards.
Mary Ellen is still delivering meals, but now she goes every other Tuesday, and her partner is her daughter, Carolyn Daniloff of Lewisburg. Mary Ellen is the driver, while Carolyn takes the meals up to the doors of the customers. Mary Ellen explained, “We have quite a number of clients. We have about 16 stops and 20 meals to deliver every other Tuesday.”
Carolyn has been delivering with her mother for a few years now and remembers helping her mother when she delivered meals with Jane, “When we were growing up in the summers, one of us would always go along with Mom and Jane. We would hand the meal to Jane, who would then deliver it to the resident’s door. We were brought up learning about service. We all took turns doing that with our Mom.”
Mary Ellen has a number of stories about the people she has served over the years. She said, “One time we went to deliver a meal at a home in Milton. She always came to the door to greet us, but on that day she didn’t come. I walked around to see about the back door and she was there and had locked herself out. I knew the people who lived next door. He gave me an extension ladder and Jane and I put the extension ladder up to the balcony and we went in the balcony door to let her back into her home.” Mary Ellen explained, “A lot of times you are the only person they see, so you don’t rush in and drop it off and run out. You take time to talk with them.”
Another time she rescued a client. Mary Ellen said, “One man didn’t answer his door. I went upstairs and found him in his bed and he couldn’t get out. His wife had died and he lived alone. He had a niece who would come in and help from time to time, but she wasn’t always there. I called his local church and they contacted emergency crews and he was taken to the hospital.”
Mary Ellen said she never thought about how many years she’s been volunteering for Meals on Wheels, “I don’t think that far ahead. I just go ahead and do what’s there now to be done and if it’s still there when I’m still here, I’ll do it.”
She added, “There are people who do not see anyone else but you that day and it always makes you feel good to see their smile and that they are happy to see you. My grandson Nicholas has gone with me. He would carry the bag in, and I’ll tell you, when those people saw a young person, they just light up. It just makes you feel good to make somebody else feel good.”
Her daughter Carolyn talked about the importance of seeing their clients when they bring the meals, “If there are issues, we always call in to Cindy Walker, the director, and tell her if someone isn’t feeling well or wasn’t themselves. That’s really almost as important, or more important than the meal. You want to see them and make sure they are okay. To me it wouldn’t be fun to just drop the meal and go. I enjoy chatting with them.”
They’ve also done a variety of chores to help the clients, like putting their wash in the dryer, washing dishes or even filling a bird feeder.
Mary Ellen said, “If you’re retired and you’re bored, you want to be bored. There are so many ways to volunteer. I don’t agree with being bored when you retire.”
Aside from Meals on Wheels, Mary Ellen was also was a hospice volunteer, did shut in communion at her church, was active on the school board and served as a Meals on Wheels board member.