In one year, Delaware County's Meals on Wheels volunteers will drive 162,000 miles to deliver 229,000 meals to more than 1,100 clients.

While intricate planning and preparation go into the expansive program, to clients and volunteers, the most-important aspect remains the simple act of neighbors helping neighbors.

The county's Meals on Wheels program, which is administered through Delaware-based SourcePoint, is open to homebound residents ages 55 and older, as well as residents younger than 55 who live independently but have disabilities or illnesses.

Liberty Township resident Gene Pillion said he finds volunteering with the program "very rewarding."

"I love the country roads," he said. "You get to know the clients and they all seem to enjoy it. They seem very happy to see you."

Beyond a desire to stay active and give back, Pillion said a family connection led him to volunteer. His daughter, Karen Pillion, serves as nutrition program manager at SourcePoint.

"She sort of twisted my leg after I retired," he said.

Gene Pillion and fellow volunteer Craig McCord of Kingston Township on March 16 took to the roads around Galena to deliver food to clients along their route.

McCord said he also started to volunteer through SourcePoint after retirement.

"(I was) looking for some way to give back and this works out perfect," he said.

The Meals on Wheels program's clients along the route said they appreciated the company and the nutritious food provided by the volunteers.

Lloyd Brooks, an 86-year-old Berkshire Township resident, said the Meals on Wheels program is "really important," especially during periods of inclement weather.

"It's rough getting around sometimes, especially in the winter," he said.

Brooks said he enjoys his chats with McCord and Pillion when they stop by to deliver food.

Pillion said he thinks Meals on Wheels also benefits its volunteers. Beyond getting volunteers out of the house, he said, the program also "works the brain."

He said volunteers must remember to log the times they depart from SourcePoint and make contact with their clients, as well as what menu choices the clients have made. He compared it to working on word puzzles.

Clients choose from among nine different meal options through the program. The menus, which change quarterly, are reviewed by the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging and an independent dietitian, according to SourcePoint.

While delivering food is the main goal of the program, volunteers also serve an important role by checking in on homebound clients. Pillion said volunteers have a protocol to follow if clients don't answer the door or seem unwell.

According to SourcePoint, Meals on Wheels volunteers donate more than 44,000 hours of their time toward the program per year.

For more information about the program, visit mysourcepoint.org/meals-on-wheels.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@twgallick