Meals on Wheels volunteer an invaluable part of program

Dec. 26—Editor's note: The Daily Item will recognize people who have Made a Difference in the Valley in 2023 this week. This is the third part of a series that will continue until New Year's Day.

LEWISBURG — Jan Bender, 88, is Lewisburg/Milton Meals on Wheels' best volunteer of 2023, said Cindy Walker, Meals on Wheels coordinator at RiverWoods.

"You could also say she's been the best volunteer for the past 25 years," she said.

"She deserves the honor," said Walker, who nominated Bender as someone who Made a Difference in 2023.

Perhaps the most unseen volunteer of the program is Jan Bender, said Walker. "She comes in every Monday to coordinate the deliveries by sorting the routes, writing the names of each individual on nearly 375 bags per week, remembering who doesn't want sweet desserts or bread, inserting friendly greeting cards and seasonal well wishes, and delivering 1 of 7 routes Monday through Friday."

Bender, who grew up in Hastings, has been a Meals on Wheels volunteer for 25 years.

"Her commitment to the program and its values are the solid foundation of the program," Walker said. "Her consistent dedication throughout the years has kept the program going as strong as it is today. Recently, one of the clients she delivers to called the office to say 'thanks for the wonderful food and service. All are appreciated.'"

She has earned these compliments and more. "Jan's contribution to the program is invaluable," Walker said. "All that has been mentioned does not include all she does.

"Throughout my life, I have been the kind of person who volunteers to help others," said Bender. She met her husband at Lycoming College. "He was a pastor." Bender has lived on the RiverWoods campus for 44 years, she said.

Lewisburg/Milton Meals on Wheels has been serving the community since 1972, said Walker, when she nominated Bender.

If there is one word to describe the Meals on Wheels volunteer, it's dedication, Walker said. "Other characteristics of the Meals on Wheels volunteer are kindness, thoughtfulness, attention to detail and compassion."

That describes Bender's dedication to the program.

"I've done different jobs for Meals on Wheels in my 25 years with the organization," she said. "Every day I go out and deliver meals to nine people on the RiverWoods campus."

Helping people means a lot to Bender.

"Some people on our campus can't cook anymore, and some cannot get out at all. So whoever wants Meals on Wheels, I can help," she said.

The Meals on Wheels delivery person is the outward face of the program. Inwardly, each week, Monday through Friday, dedicated volunteers come into RiverWoods where the meals are prepared and pack the meals. They couldn't be delivered without being packed first.

"Throughout the years there have been a number of program coordinators and a huge number of volunteers. After 51 years some of those who volunteered are no longer with us, however, their contributions then have ensured that the program continues today," Walker said.

People pay for their meals, with the amount depending on their income, Bender said. Some people pay $1.80, others, $2.80. And some pay the full price, which starting in January is $4.95. It is a full meal, with an entree and vegetables, fruit and bread, Bender said.

Bender herself is in good health. "I'm doing fine. I'm 88 and I can walk all over campus every day."