It's My Job: Haylee Smith - Meals on Wheels Henderson CountyOct 29, 2023 11:11PM ● By Randee Brown
Understanding the significance of what the Meals On Wheels program brings to its clients, Program Coordinator Hayley Smith said her job makes it easy to go home from work feeling really good about the work she is doing.
After attending college with an interest in nonprofit law, Smith joined Meals On Wheels in September of 2022 with some knowledge of the program from a volunteering family member. She began with a part-time position in September of 2022 and moved to a full-time position in January of 2023, taking on additional tasks including performing intake evaluations for nutrition service clients.
Smith’s duties primarily include communication with and scheduling logistics for delivery drivers as well as communication with MOW clients to make sure they are at home during delivery times. She also connects with other support services in the office to help get clients to resources for a variety of other things in the community.
“We now have about 300 active clients for Meals On Wheels, and we’re adding about 20 people a month for those services,” Smith said. “We receive about 10 intake forms per week, but there are some people coming off of these services as well. We are starting to see our waiting list go down, which is a great thing.”
Smith also jumps in to help pack meals for clients. Coming from Pardee or AdventHealth, meals and snacks are packed and organized in the morning with the help of about 20 volunteers per day then distributed throughout the county. She said there are about 35 different routes with about eight clients each, some clients receiving hot meals daily and others receiving five frozen meals once per week.
“The program had switched to all frozen meals during COVID,” Smith said, “and some of our clients really like that flexibility of not having to be home at certain times every day. For others, it is about more than a hot meal; it’s about socialization, and our drivers are also companions to many of these seniors. They take time to really get to know them and are building relationships with them.”
Building relationships with her clients has been impactful for Smith as well. She said she is glad to get to know so many people, and her desire to be helpful is growing because of that.
“I’m very passionate about working to make sure they are all okay,” Smith said. “I was very shy before, and this is also helping me to become more of a people person. The Council’s slogan is No One Ages Alone, and I really try to stand by that to make sure they’re not struggling.”
Some events really allow Smith to soak in the happiness that her job brings.On Christmas, in partnership with Bounty of Bethlehem and the Salvation Army, volunteers began cooking food at 4:00 AM to make sure meals were ready for clients. They received calls and thank you letters from many of them, and that made Smith realize how much she enjoys working with this population.
The biggest challenge, according to Smith, is the realization that she can’t immediately help everyone with everything. She said it takes time for clients to join some of these programs, and some people have these needs and are really struggling.
“The need is so great, and before I worked here, I had no idea,” Smith said. “With such a large aging population the need is only growing. There is only so much we can do, and something has to change on a bigger level.”
The staff within the Council on Aging and its nutrition programs, which include MOW, Congregate Dining, and Liquid Nutrition, help each other and their clients, according to Smith. There are so many amazing volunteers, and the staff members help each other and work hard to make sure everyone is taken care of. She said though it gets busy and tough sometimes, they all do the best they can to get resources to as many clients as they can.
“This job has really opened my eyes to the aging population and the importance of advocating for them,” Smith said. “They supported us and our generation, and they are the foundation of where we are now. There are a million other things I could be doing, but I would rather be here doing this.”
Haylee Smith is the Program Director for Meals on Wheels in Henderson County. Learn more at COAHC.org/Meals-On-Wheels.