SHERIDAN — They most likely didn’t see the relationship lasting as long as it did but Carole Ann and Bill Conrad were at it for 43 years.
“It’s been a long time,” said Carole Ann Conrad, “but we were never concerned about doing it. We always enjoyed it.”
The Conrads delivered meals to homebound senior residents for more than four decades.
“I had been working before we moved to Sheridan,” Conrad said. “So I was used to keeping busy.”
With three young children — two in school — Carole Ann Conrad landed a part-time position with First United Methodist, their home church. She had energy and heart to spare.
That’s when she heard about the new home-delivered meals program for older residents that was started by community volunteers.
“I’m not sure how we heard about the home-delivered meals program,” she said, but noted she was quick to sign on.
In 1974, the new home-delivered meals for older adults were prepared at Sheridan Memorial Hospital under the direction of the hospital’s dietitian. Volunteers picked up meals at the hospital. At first it was Conrad with their 4-year-old son, Mark. Mark was most likely the youngest volunteer in the new program until he was old enough to go to school.
“We found that a lot of the people didn’t have a lot of company and they enjoyed meeting with me and with Mark,” Conrad said.
Volunteers used their own mode of transportation then as they do now. For the Conrads, they began delivering meals in their 1974 Ford Dasher.
“Bill likes anything that has wheels. He likes to trade in a car every three to four years. I have a picture album with each car he has owned,” Conrad said of her husband.
Conrad took a break when a career change moved her to a full-time job with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Then, in 1993, her husband jumped into delivering home-delivered meals right away with Conrad when he retired. She worked another six years before retiring. Conrad would volunteer over her lunch break. As a team, the Conrads were a dynamic duo.
“I would navigate while Carole Ann delivered,” Bill Conrad said.
While he chauffeured, his wife focused on the people she was visiting. In time, the duo would bring their grandchildren with them as volunteers. The younger generation, ages 3 to 5, would sometimes help carry smaller bags to homes.
“I remember how much people enjoyed Mark so we began taking the grandchildren with us,” Carole Ann Conrad said. “Five lived in Sheridan and went with us at different times. They enjoyed it.”
The Conrads saw changes to the home-delivered meals program over their years as volunteers. A big change is when the program moved from the hospital to the new Senior Center facility on Smith Street.
They also saw community partnerships with the program develop and establish over the years. One partnership today is with the Albertson’s grocery store volunteers who come in once each month to serve meals in the dining room.
“You didn’t see that when the program first began,” Carole Ann Conrad said.
“I was just floored when I heard that Carole Ann and Bill have been volunteering to deliver meals since the program began. They are so humble,” Holli Weber said.
Weber is one of the two program coordinators at the Senior Center.
“When they began, they didn’t have as many people to deliver to as they do now,” Weber added.
Weber said she appreciates the Conrads’ professional approach to their volunteerism.
“They are so committed,” Weber said. “They always showed up on time and would call weeks in advance when they knew they would be out of town.”
When they started, they knew they had found their niche, Carole Ann Conrad said.
“We just like doing it,” she said.
The Conrads have now retired from their volunteerism with a loving legacy behind them.