I noticed in last week’s newspaper that Meals on Wheels, a program offered by Petaluma People Services Center, is in need of more drivers. If you’ve been thinking about doing some community service work, I would like to share a little of our experience as MOW drivers in the hope that it might encourage you to consider volunteering; I think being a MOW driver is the perfect volunteer gig.

As you might already know, MOW provides a freshly prepared, nutritious meal to people who aren’t able to shop or prepare their own meals. So there’s no question that MOW performs a valuable and needed service in the community. And we have gotten a lot of gratification from the connection we develop with the people on our route.

Warm feelings are great, but let’s talk practicality; that’s why I think MOW is such a great way to volunteer.

Volunteering for MOW is predictable. We know that every other Saturday, we are going to do MOWs. It always stays on our calendar. That’s why Steve and I have been able to be MOW drivers for more than 15 years. Sure, we’ve had to miss a Saturday here-and-there but otherwise, we plan around it.

Driving MOW is routine. We arrive at Petaluma Valley Hospital at 11:30am and two containers – a cooler for the cold meals and an insulated tote for the hot meals – are ready and waiting for us along with a clipboard that has the delivery route for the day. Craig, the MOW coordinator, has thoughtfully included turn-by-turn directions along with any special instructions for recipients, such as “Knock and go in.” We load the car, deliver the meals, and by 1:30 we’re returning the containers to the hospital and go on with the rest of our day.

Delivering MOW is community service that you can do as a family. That’s why we initially started driving…to introduce our kids to the concept helping others. We would pile everyone in the car, tune into Radio Disney, give the oldest kid the clipboard to navigate and cross off the names as we made the delivery. The senior women loved it when our young daughters accompanied us and handed them their food; the ladies faces brightened like the sun had just come out.

As teenagers, all of our kids drove MOW when they had their provisional driver’s license. Two hours of driving around Petaluma, backing in-and-out of driveways was wonderful driving practice. I still remember when our middle daughter pulled into a parking place in one of the senior apartment complexes and managed to get the tire so tight to the curb that we spent 15 minutes going forward an inch, then reverse an inch, forward an inch, and so on until we could fully back out.

For our kids, other commitments such as school, activities, and jobs eventually took precedence over delivering MOW. But it was after it became just Steve and me driving MOW together that I really began to enjoy it. It’s like a date but without the cost and calories of going out to dinner. For the two hours that it takes us to deliver the meals, we have an opportunity to chat without the distractions of chores, computers, or phone. And at the same time, do something that feels pretty darn good.

If you’re interested in volunteering, contact Petaluma People Services Center at (707) 765-8484 and speak to Craig Mason.