SHERIDAN — She will wake up on Christmas morning with her special family surrounding her — Henry, Jack, Tal, Fred, Bear and R.D. If the weather is nice enough, Kris Walker will walk her family, feed her family of six dogs, then head to the Sheridan Senior Center mid-morning to deliver meals on this very special Sunday: Dec. 25, Christmas Day.
“It’s the first time I’m able to deliver meals on Christmas,” said Walker referring to her work schedule. Sheridan residents may recognize Walker when she’s on the job: Walker is a city community service officer who works in animal control.
One of the things Walker likes to do on her time off from work is volunteer.
She chose to help deliver mid-day meals from the Sheridan Senior Center to homebound elders.
“I was looking for the right fit for me to volunteer and this suits me,” said Walker who began volunteering three years ago in response to an appeal from the Senior Center for help. She has the same route on Tuesdays and Saturdays, two days that fit her schedule. The routine has provided Walker the opportunity to get to know the people she helps serve.
“So many out there who need some help,” Walker said.
Through the years, Walker has gotten to know the people on her route. Like many of the home delivered meals volunteers, Walker reaps the reward of gratitude that is expressed not only by the meal recipients but also by the center.
“They are always happy that we’re there. They don’t take it (the meals and the service) for granted,” Walker said.
On Christmas, more than a dozen volunteers will be giving the gift of their hearts, hands and time to deliver a hot noon meal to 160-180 homebound elders on Christmas Day.
Shirley Knisley, home delivered meals coordinator at the Senior Center, observes a different feel at Christmas as compared to the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Christmas is not like the Thanksgiving,” said Knisley, who has been the heart of coordinating home delivered meals from the center for 12 and a half years. “During Thanksgiving, many families are home for the holiday. But this is not true for Christmas.”
The absence of family during Christmas leaves the need to be sure elders are fed, many who cannot afford a meal, cannot cook for themselves, or are dealing with health recovery or illness.
The Sheridan Senior Center kitchen is one of the few in the region that is open 365 days a year for service. Decades ago, the center’s board of directors made the decision to provide meals year-round recognizing that hunger does not take a holiday…or weekend…off.
Walker does not see spending 45 minutes of her Christmas Day delivering meals as a chore or burden. Rather, she sees it as blessing. And if the weather should provide her the opportunity, Walker will throw in a little fun for herself: she’s been known to use her four-wheeler to deliver meals. Having a four-wheeler is not a requirement for home delivered meals volunteers.
In addition to the 12 or more Senior Center home delivered meals volunteers on Christmas Day, there will be additional volunteers helping serve a holiday roast beef in the center’s dining room at 211 Smith St.
Volunteers are essential to the Senior Center’s meals program both in the home delivered meals program and at the Senior Center’s dining sites throughout Sheridan County. But the volunteer feeling seems to feel a little warmer during Christmas.
“It’s a chance to do something like this to help someone else out,” Walker said.
And after 45 minutes of making a difference in the lives of more than one dozen residents, Walker will enjoy her Christmas Day with her very special four-legged family at home.
By Lois Bell
Sheridan Senior Center