Meals on Wheels Experience Gives Paguirigan a New Career Path

This article was written soon after Paguirigan’s AmeriCorps term of service ended on August 11, 2015.

The other day, a Meals on Wheels (MoW) client on the Tuscarora route stopped me as I was leaving and shouted across his driveway, “Are you going to be talking to or seeing Jessica Paguirigan again?  Please tell her how much we appreciate all that she has done for us.”

His sentiment is widely shared by other clients, the MoW staff at the Frederick County Department of Aging and MoW volunteers.  Paguirigan, a soft-spoken, thoughtful 2014 graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, has completed a year as Frederick County’s MoW Volunteer Maryland coordinator and the compliments are still rolling in.

She is being applauded for improving awareness of the program through social media, her energetic recruiting of new volunteers, compassion for the clients and efforts to recognize the service of those who volunteer their time every week to MoW.  On the social media front, she created LinkedIn and Facebook pages and a blog that spotlights the dedication of DOA MoW staffers and volunteers and the urgent needs of program clients.

Dave Romer, a MoW volunteer, told the Frederick News Post in May that “the program has expanded in all directions under [Paguirigan’s] watch.  She’s terrific.”  As someone who has worked closely with her in preparing blogs on the commitment of MoW staffers and volunteers and the pressing needs of clients, I can only echo Romer’s assessment.  And if you ask Mary Feaster, MoW outreach worker, be prepared to listen for a long time about how much Paguirigan’s hard work and innovative ideas are already sorely missed.

Paguirigan, unlike many of today’s young college graduates, did not start school knowing precisely what she wanted to do after graduating.  In fact, she chose St. Mary’s College because “people who go to a liberal arts college [like St. Mary’s] are just learning to explore themselves” to determine what career path to follow, she said.    

St. Mary’s provided a compelling learning experience and instilled in her a sense of wanting to help others.  A lot of classes there have public service components and the campus provides ample opportunities to serve.  “It’s in the mission of what they call ‘St Mary’s Way,'” said Paguirigan, who served as a community service outreach fellow while attending the school.  “That gave me a taste of what it’s like to coordinate volunteers,” she said.

After graduating, she was assigned to Volunteer Maryland (VM), which places AmeriCorps volunteers with non-profit organizations, government agencies and schools to address community needs in education, public safety, health and the environment.  VM works with its community partners to recruit, train and supervise AmeriCorps members to serve as the partners’ Volunteer Maryland Coordinators.  Crucial funding is provided by AmeriCorps.   

Nationwide, AmeriCorps personnel mobilize millions of volunteers for the community organizations and agencies they serve.

For Paguirigan, a year of public service with the Frederick County Department of Aging’s Meals on Wheels program has given her desire to help others a specific direction:  after spending some time with her father and siblings in Hawaii and her fiance in Maryland, she will attend graduate school to earn a master’s degree in social work with an emphasis on gerontology.  “This year has given me some clarity as to what I should be doing with my life,” she said.  “[I’ve learned] you really can make a difference.  I feel like now I could coordinate volunteers anywhere.”

She will concentrate on the elderly because “I have learned a lot this year about the financial and medical issues seniors face.  I’m much more sensitive to age discrimination now.”

She has also learned to accept incremental success when trying to improve the conditions of the elderly.  “It is so sad that we can’t turn some situations around completely,” she said.  “We really want to.  [But] we’re limited by funding, resources and time.”

Fortunately, there were no limits on Paguirigan’s hard work and compassion this year at MoW and those attributes played an important role in the program’s progress.    

Written by Jeff Trewhitt, blog contributor and MOW Driver.

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DOA’s Front Desk Person Answers Questions, Directs Seniors to Needed Services

To her colleagues, Sue Ramsburg is a “compass” of the Frederick County Department of Aging (DOA).

Sitting at the front desk in DOA’s lobby at 1440 Taney Avenue in Frederick, she helps 30 to 35 daily callers get the information or services they need.  She directs them to the right department experts or answers their questions herself or provides some of the answers and then sends them to the experts for more information.

Ramsburg’s ability to answer questions on a wide range of subjects often helps to reduce the workload of the experts and department case workers, a fact that has won her praise from throughout DOA.  “She is super-helpful,” said Jessica Paguirigan, an AmeriCorps volunteer who has served the last year as a DOA Meals on Wheels coordinator.

Ramsburg said she tries “to give [callers and department visitors] as much information as possible. I’ve been here seven years and I sort of learn things as I go along.  I love this job.”  With a touch of self-deprecating humor, she added, “I always tell people I know a little bit about a lot.” Continue reading

A Life of Public Service Includes Coordinating Frederick County’s Meals on Wheels

IMG_20150810_115239428_HDRMary Feaster is not coasting to retirement in a job with well-established hours and routines.

She knew when she became the Outreach Coordinator of the Frederick County Department of Aging Meals on Wheels program that it was not going to be an easy transition into retirement. She worked four years with physically and mentally challenged youth for the Frederick County Office for Children and Families.  Seven years ago when she accepted the Meals on Wheels Outreach Coordinator position.  She had already spent 22 years as Director of Environmental Services at Carroll Hospital Center, and was the Telerecruiting Supervisor of the Chesapeake/Potomac Blood Services Region for the American Red Cross and in other public service positions.

And yet, she still chose another demanding job, choosing this time to help keep vulnerable senior and disabled residents in their homes.  As the Outreach Coordinator for Frederick County Meals on Wheels program, she processes the initial applications from clients, nursing home discharge coordinators, Department of Social Services, hospitals, to name a few, which includes conducting telephone interviews, develops the food delivery routes, oversees the volunteers delivering food and fields the many requests from clients who often have very little family support and need help from others.

She now handles up to five applications a day and expanding existing delivery routes and developing new ones is a constant challenge.  A new Middletown/Myersville route has already been expanded into two routes because of growing food assistance needs and existing delivery routes, which used to encompass 10 to 15 miles, now involve 40 to 50 miles of driving and more deliveries.

“Map Quest used to be my best friend,” said Feaster.  “Now, I use Google maps.  We’re expanding because we want [vulnerable and disabled] people to be able to remain in their homes, while aging in place, and with dignity.  People who are no longer able to shop and drive should not have to live in assisted living.”

Continue reading

New Study:  Meals on Wheels Reduces Isolation, Loneliness of Clients and Helps Improve Safety  

A Brown University study released in March shows Meals on Wheels (MoW) America’s “More Than Just A Meal” motto is much more than just a catchy phrase.

The report’s findings back up earlier anecdotal evidence that the recipients of MoW’s daily food deliveries feel safer, healthier, less isolated, not as lonely and less worried.  Conducted in late 2013 and early 2014, the 15-week study analyzes the answers of 626 people in eight MoW programs around the country who either were receiving daily meals, weekly meals or were still on a waiting list and not yet receiving food.

The numbers for those receiving daily meal deliveries are predictably the most impressive: Continue reading

Meals on Wheels Requests Adequate Funding During Older Americans Month

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May is Older Americans Month and nationwide supporters of Meals on Wheels (MoW) have been stressing to members of Congress the challenges of hunger, isolation and poverty among senior citizens.

Armed with new state and national fact sheets developed by Meals on Wheels America and a new Brown University report, MoW advocates have been emphasizing the seriousness of problems faced by the elderly and stressing how programs like MoW provide badly needed assistance to financially strapped and homebound older residents.  MoW supporters are stressing the importance of adequate funding and Meals on Wheels America has endorsed the increased funding levels of President Obama’s 2016 budget request for the nutrition programs covered by the Older Americans Act.  Meals on Wheels America submitted written testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee in April calling for increased funding.

The new Congress seated in January is dominated by Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  And Meals on Wheels America has distributed a congressional guide to MoW chapters around the country to help program advocates determine if their federal lawmakers serve on committees that oversee legislation impacting MoW and other federal efforts for senior citizens. Continue reading

Meals on Wheels Involves Much More than Food Delivery

Steve Stoyke, Nurse Case Manager and Merry Prankster
Steve Stoyke, Nurse Case Manager and Merry Prankster

The room was in stitches as Steve Stoyke fired off one quirky, off-beat joke after another.

It was late on a recent Friday afternoon and the case workers were slowly unwinding after another hectic week at the Frederick County Department of Aging.  The scene was not uncommon — Stoyke, a Meals on Wheels case worker and licensed practical nurse (LPN) — has regaled his co-workers many times before with his keen, if perhaps somewhat bohemian, sense of humor.

A food and beverage caterer in another life years ago, he is clearly the merry office prankster.  But one would be quite mistaken if they thought that was his main talent.  Behind the smile and bantering is a fiercely dedicated case worker who has, since 2003, been largely responsible for turning the DOA’s Meals on Wheels (MoW) program into something much more than just a food delivery service for those in need of more nutritious food.

One of the first things he realized when he began working for MoW 12 years ago is that many of the clients are vulnerable, frail people in urgent need of many more services, including health care.  The realization in 2003 that the program did not have a system for arranging or providing other services was more than a little disturbing — as a health care professional, he can be held accountable for clients who get hurt or are not properly cared for.  And besides, taking care of people is what he does.

“I took my nursing attitude and put it in place here,” Stoyke said.  “I was looking at these people as my patients.  They weren’t taking their pills.  . . . And in other cases, they weren’t washing themselves [and we had to do something about it].”

Under his direction, new client assessment policies and procedures were instituted and today, MoW applicants undergo a thorough evaluation of their living conditions and needs.  A comprehensive form requires Stoyke and other case workers to find out the health and functional abilities of each person.  “I go in and look for odors and skin color,” he said.  “Are their glasses clean?  Is the bathroom clean?  Sometimes, [with their permission] I go through their medicine cabinets to see what’s there.”

Periodically, he steps in to offer temporary health care assistance and to function as a provider of basic necessities.  On one occasion, he helped a 94-year-old blind client organize the 27 daily prescription pills  she takes to make sure they are taken properly.  And in another instance, he secured a doctor’s orders to temporarily conduct Foley flushes, which are a way to avoid bladder infection if someone must use a catheter.  And sometimes, clients can’t do AccuChecks for diabetes.  So he does them.

“We go way beyond our job simply because it is the right thing to do,” he said.

Something Stoyke and his colleagues have learned over the years to look for are signs of neglect and abuse.  Once, they learned about a man and woman who had won the confidence of an elderly MoW client and were living in her house and spending her money.  There have also been tense moments when case workers have reported clients living in substandard potentially dangerous housing.

It is almost comic relief when DOA staffers encounter MoW applicants who don’t need the help.  For instance, there was the time a few giggles had to be suppressed when a wealthy woman in a fine home applied because she did not like to wash dishes or get her sink dirty.

But mainly, case workers encounter people in desperate need.  “I’ve gone home in tears before,” said Stoyke.  “It just kills you sometimes.”

But not enough to give up.  That he has no intention of doing.  He will continue to drive 20 to 80 miles a day to visit and meet the needs of MoW clients.  “We do the best we can with what we’ve got,” he said.  “I still see this program as being the best bang for the buck.”

Jeff Trewhitt is a contributing writer and MOW volunteer.

Q& A: Why is Volunteering as a Family Awesome?

While most of the Meals on Wheels volunteers in Frederick County are retired, every once in a while, we have some young folk who want to get involved in the community. This family is one such example- Melissa and her two daughters, Isabel (16), and Lucy (13) delivered Meals on Wheels for about a year. Although they have moved on to other volunteer experiences, and trying to manage their hectic schedules, we had a chance to ask them a few questions about what it was like to volunteer together as a family. Check it out!

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer with Meals on Wheels?

Isabel (age 16): I chose to volunteer with Meals on Wheels because I want to help old people, and also to put it on my college applications.

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Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse comic strip might be reflecting the way Isabel will feel later on after committing herself to amazing volunteer work!

Melissa: I chose Meals on Wheels because I like the sense of satisfaction that comes with feeding people. And I love spending a couple hours with my daughter driving from house to house. Continue reading