Every so often I notice in the newspaper that Meals on Wheels, a program offered by Petaluma People Services Center, is in need of more drivers. If you’ve thought 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. From a volunteer’s point of view, what makes delivering MOW worth considering?

For starters, volunteering for MOW is predictable. Steve and I know that every other Saturday, we are going to drive MOWs. It is always on our calendar. That’s why we have been able to be MOW drivers for almost 20 years. If it wasn’t easy, we wouldn’t have kept doing it for so many 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.

Eventually, other commitments for the kids took precedence over delivering MOW and the volunteering was left to Steve and me. But it was after the kids bowed out that I really began to enjoy delivering MOW. It’s like a date for us 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, we’re doing something meaningful for our community and that feels pretty darn good.

For more information on volunteering, go to http://petalumapeople.org/volunteer/