WAXAHACHIE — As Lillian and Sharon patiently waited for a hot lunch to make its way into their homes, Congressman Joe Barton was slipping on a "Let's do lunch" t-shirt and headed out with two coolers in hand for an afternoon of volunteering.
The Meals on Wheels program, especially the Meals on Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties, is one Barton said he holds in high regard. Barton has served the constituents of the 6th Congressional District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives for the last 32 years.
“In my hometown of Ennis, I have been a longtime advocate for Meals on Wheels," Barton said. "They provide an invaluable service in the delivery of meals, social contact, and safety checks to our most vulnerable citizens."
Not all of the 1,000 meals delivered daily by some 600 weekly volunteers to the approximately 1,700-square mile area served by Meals on Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties go to a resident who is bedridden. Some, like Sharon, have just been temporarily "knocked down" and need a little assistance while recovering, regrouping or adjusting to an independent lifestyle.
"It's a little hard for me to do things now with a broken wrist and hip. I've always been a real go-getter, so this is an adjustment that is hard for me to deal with," Sharon said. "I won't be knocked down long though. I can promise that."
Last week, Rep. Barton and Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, introduced House Resolution 1821 or the DELIVER Act, an acronym for Delivering Elderly Lunches and Increasing Volunteer Engagement and Reimbursements.
“This short, concise bill amends the tax code to increase the tax deduction for volunteers who deliver meals to homebound individuals," Barton stated. "At present, these volunteers are only able to deduct the charity mileage rate, as opposed to the standard mileage rate, on their annual tax returns. This bill helps people who use their own personal vehicle, on their own time to deliver meals to some of our most frail Americans.
"As our population continues to get older, the need for these compassionate volunteers will only be amplified. The spirit of volunteering one’s time and resources helps make our communities stronger."
Lisa Deese, the community relations specialists for Meals on Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties, said the general idea behind the program is "community serving community," which was echoed by Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America.
“I commend Congressman Joe Barton and Congressman John Lewis on reintroducing the DELIVER Act during a historic and celebratory month for senior nutrition programs,” Hollander stated in an email release. “This important piece of bipartisan legislation supports our backbone: the dedicated volunteers who are delivering the vital nutrition, social connection and safety checks to America’s most vulnerable citizens. We are grateful that both Representatives recognize the invaluable role volunteers play in keeping seniors healthier and more independent at home while avoiding more costly healthcare alternatives.”
To volunteer with Meals on Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties, visit the brand new Waxahachie office, located at 1311 Ferris Avenue, Suite C, in Waxahachie. The office, which serves as the Ellis County hub, moved from its former location April 1. Deese said the new location is approximately double the size as the old build building that was utilized for the last 15 years. Meals on Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties can also be reached at (972) 351-9943.
*Editor's note: Meals on Wheels policy requires the last names of clients to be omitted.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith