Serving Up Meals And Hope

Tom Abbott has served our country for more than 25 years in the U.S. Navy, retiring from active duty in 1993 as first class petty officer. His tours of duty included Vietnam, the Pueblo Ordeal, and the Persian Gulf. Now 66 years old, Tom struggles with foot and leg problems compounded by lower back pain that make leaving his house difficult and moving around often painful.

“I used to smoke a pack-and-a-half of cigarettes a day,” Abbott said. “My doctors told me my problems with my legs and feet are a direct result of that habit. Most days the pain is tolerable with medication, but other days it hurts to even get out of bed, and I don’t.”

That’s where Meals on Wheels comes into play. Through the United Way-sponsored program in Jamestown, Tom receives two meals per day, five days per week.

“Meals on Wheels introduced me to people who really care, and it touches my heart that volunteers would do this for me and other people like me who need this service,” Abbott said. “Going out to eat is out of the question for me, and having a healthy meal delivered to my home by friendly volunteers has made all the difference in my world.”

But it’s not just the meal that’s making the difference for Tom; it’s the conversation that follows.

“For me, these volunteers are sometimes the only people I’ll see all day, and to have someone visit me is something I really look forward to,” Abbott said.

Meals on Wheels in Jamestown served 708 people last year, and provided 131,436 meals. Executive Director Barrie Yochim said the need is only increasing.

“As our population in Jamestown ages, we are seeing more and more people rely on this service,” Yochim said. “Without the funding we receive from United Way, we wouldn’t be able to serve all these people who really depend on us to show up every day at their door – people like Tom Abbott.”

Due to his constant battle with pain and other issues, Tom makes monthly and often weekly trips to the VA Medical Center in Buffalo. He said it’s a relief to know lunch and dinner will be waiting for him when he returns.

“That’s the other thing about Meals on Wheels; it has given me peace of mind. I’m just so grateful that people donate their time and money to United Way to help people like me out.”

And helping people out like Tom Abbott was a no-brainer for Barrie Yochim.

“Everyone who receives a meal from our program must qualify for the service. When I sat down with Tom and he mentioned that he was a Vietnam Veteran, that’s all I needed to know,” Yochim said. “I consider it my privilege to help out a guy who has sacrificed so much for this country.”

Meals on Wheels is one of 18 different partner agencies, and 39 human service programs supported by funding from United Way of Southern Chautauqua County. When you donate to United Way, you help serve not just a meal to someone like Tom Abbott, you serve hope. And nothing is more satisfying than that.