By JOEY REISTROFFER
SPARTANBURG — Mobile Meals is pretty close to ground zero when it comes to passing along holiday cheer to the needy across the county.
Executive Director Jayne McQueen and her Mobile Meals volunteers deliver hot meals along with a smile all year long. During the Christmas season, however, it gets special.
“This time of year a lot of people are very giving and sharing,” said Paula Jakubchak, who is in charge of Mobile Meals fund raising.
“A lot of people want to do something, so they’ll come to us and ask us,” added Holly Boyce, who lines up volunteer drivers every weekday to deliver meals.
This past Thanksgiving, for example, Bob Faye and the Knights of Columbus held a hot Turkey Day feast at the Policeman’s Club for 120 hungry people.
The Knights have done this for decades, Faye said. And they always call Mobile Meals to see whether anyone on their routes needs a ride to the club to enjoy the festivities.
Many do, and the Knights make the day special for those who otherwise might spend the holiday shut in and lonely.
Pam Rice, outreach coordinator for Mobile Meals, tries to shine a little light into these dark and lonely lives.
She is charged with screening residents in the county to see whether they qualify for a Mobile Meal. She runs across helplessness, hopelessness, depression, squalor, abandonment, and it breaks her heart.
“I see it every day,” Rice said.
She is on a mission. She wants to make a difference, and at Mobile Meals she can.
During the holiday season, Rice said the county comes together to help those who are less fortunate than themselves. This year businesses, churches, stores and schools are putting together stockings for all of the almost 1,800 Mobile Meals recipients in Spartanburg.
“It’s a community effort,” Jakubchak said. “The community goes all out.”
Some make the Christmas stockings. Others donate items for the stockings, while still others pitch in to stuff those stockings. Then more volunteers drive the precious gifts to those who have no one and to those who have nothing.
It makes their day, both for the volunteers, who delivered a little happiness, and for the recipients, who needed something to hold on to.
And perhaps that is why Mobile Meals is such a popular place during the holidays.
The folks at Mobile Meals wish that holiday spirit would last all year. They are trying to make it happen.
Rice, who calls her job a “spiritual ministry,” wants to get more people involved. She has started a “care visitors” program at Mobile Meals.
These are volunteers who “adopt our recipients,” Rice said. They call the needy, visit them, go shopping for them, go shopping with them, and even drive them to appointments.
It has taken hold, Rice said. “We have about 35 caretakers.”
Many of those are from the Adult Catholics Today group in Spartanburg. “They are very active volunteers,” Rice said.
The outreach coordinator said Mobile Meals is going beyond just delivering a meal to the hungry. It is caring for those they feed.
“We have volunteers who do roofing, patch sidewalks, put in door locks and patch windows,” Rice said.
Now Mobile Meals wants to pursue a program that includes medical and spiritual needs. “They want to hire two nurses and a full-time minister to go into the homes,” she said.
That program, however, still is in its infancy, but it shows the dedication and the drive the folks at Mobile Meals have.
A couple of days before Thanksgiving, Rice was in her office arranging for one of her recipients to get her hair shampooed so she would have clean hair for visitors during Thanksgiving dinner.
Another time, a Mobile Meals driver was concerned about a recipient whose feet were swelling. “I was scared that her feet might burst,” Rice said.
Mobile Meals got her to the doctor the next morning, she continued.
This goes on at Mobile Meals all year around. It is a community of volunteers pitching in to make life just a little bit brighter and a little bit more hopeful.
During the holiday season, their efforts draw more and more people caught up in the spirit of giving. And it makes Mobile Meals the hub of holiday cheer.