Wheels convey a sense of momentum, of course, and when you see them on vehicles in the community, it’s always at least two or more working together. With Meals on Wheels, TECO team members have a tremendous partnership, a unique opportunity for volunteerism and a vehicle with lots of horsepower – and even better, people power – for helping members of the community in need simply put food on their tables.
But it’s an effort that needs the help of more than just people at TECO: it needs you.
“Just as we couldn’t sit by while our elderly parents, grandparents or homebound neighbors went hungry, we can’t sit by when we know there are people out there right now – other peoples’ parents and neighbors – who lack the money or mobility to get their next meal and don’t have anyone in their lives who can help,” said Marshall Tucker, manager of Corporate Business Development with TECO and Meals on Wheels of Tampa board member. “Unfortunately, that situation is a reality for more and more people – which means the reality for those of us able to help is that we must.”
He added, “The typical person that Meals on Wheels helps is elderly and alone – in many cases, these are people who helped build this community when they were younger; now it’s our duty to give back to them with the simple act of providing them with a meal.”
A small amount of time – and a safely running car – can do so much to help you show you care
“For all the great things happening in the Tampa Bay area, we can’t forget the sad fact that hunger and food insecurity are part of this community as well, as they are with many others,” said Bruce Narzissenfeld, Emera Energy’s vice president Development – Florida (Emera Inc. is Tampa Electric’s parent company) and a former Meals on Wheels of Tampa board member. “As this is the community we’re proud to live and do business in, it’s important to seek out and work with top-quality organizations like Meals on Wheels, with its proven record of helping others – something in evidence each day. When we find ways to help those lacking in life’s most basic needs, such as food, the entire community becomes stronger.”
According to historical accounts, Tampa saw its first internal combustion-powered car in 1900 – a year after Tampa Electric began serving the community with safe, reliable electricity and five years after the start of the company that would become Peoples Gas. This mode of transportation, then, has been part of the community, just like us, for well over a century. And when Meals on Wheels first rolled into Tampa in 1975, the groundwork was in place for a partnership that endures to this day.
Unfortunately, hunger and food insecurity endure as well – but so does the drive to help.
“Meals on Wheels of Tampa is so appreciative of TECO for their continuous support of our mission over the years, as community partners, sustainers, sponsors, Adopt-A-Route volunteers and so much more,” said Lauren Vance, director of Communications and Donor Relations with Meals on Wheels of Tampa. “Their financial contribution to our mission each year, provides over 2,000 meals to Tampa’s elderly, disabled and homebound neighbors. And as Adopt-A-Route partners, the employees of TECO give their morning or lunch hour to deliver hot, nourishing meals, while providing a friendly visit and safety check, touching hundreds of lives each year.”
Buckle up with us for community caring
Again and again, TECO team members who volunteer for Meals on Wheels come back to similar thoughts about why it matters.
“It’s nice to be able to help those in need of a nutritious meal and be able to do it all on your lunch hour once a month,” said Senior Regulatory Accounting Analyst Lindsay O’Bryan. “It’s a small commitment of time, but it really adds up and benefits those that receive the meals as well as those that work for the organization.”
Added Cathy Pettway, utility accounting treasury specialist III: “It’s important to volunteer because without us and others like us delivering meals, they probably wouldn’t be able to cook for themselves or go to the store. Meals on Wheels depends on over 600 volunteers like me and 65 Adopt-a-Route partners like TECO to accomplish its mission.”
For Lisa Grant, regulatory pricing analyst, the personal connections are what stands out about her Meals on Wheels experience.
“I can tell that some of the people I deliver to will not see or talk to anyone else that day and they are so grateful for the daily visits from volunteers,” she said. “Meals on Wheels delivers more than 700 meals daily – that’s incredible for an organization that couldn’t survive without volunteers.”
Legal Specialist Heather Douglas, meanwhile, is the TECO team member who connects other TECO employees to Meals on Wheels of Tampa.
“Meals on Wheels helps the elderly remain independent and living in their home as opposed to having to move to an assisted care facility because they can’t prepare meals,” she said. “That fact alone is so important to TECO’s volunteers – anytime one of them has a scheduling conflict, another is ready to step in and take over the delivery route. That’s just the kind of company this is – and the kind of organization Meals on Wheels is.”
What about you?
So that brings us to you, dear reader: maybe your quote in this blog post would be about the joy of driving to see someone whose life depends in part on you – and the appreciation you receive for a simple act of caring. About how surprisingly easy it can be to make a difference. Or about how you know that not knowing where your next meal will come from might be scarier than almost anything.
“I’m proud to work for a company like TECO that makes helping organizations like Meals on Wheels such a high priority,” Tucker said. “Talk isn’t enough, though, and neither is just saying you care. If homebound people are having to choose between meals and medicine they need, then it’s up to us to act.”
Simply bringing food to the hungry: It’s about basic compassion; it’s about a small amount of time you can share. It’s about how the rubber, as they say, hits the road.
Learn how you can help Meals on Wheels of Tampa by attending upcoming lunch workshops at 550 W. Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa: Noon to 1 p.m. on March 29, April 6 or April 18. Taste the food, tour the kitchen and make a difference right away: delivery routes for volunteers are often available within a day’s time.