Retired couples spend time volunteering together | Community News | #retirement | #elderly | #seniors
Jim and Teri Ingham are long-time volunteers with East Cooper Meals on Wheels. After 24 years of volunteering together as a couple, their greatest takeaway is that the connections with recipients go beyond delivering a meal.
“You do more for them than just deliver a meal: it’s the friendship and looking out after their needs,” Teri said.
Teri and Jim reminisced about an elderly woman who they got to know outside of the routine meal deliveries. Jim didn’t hesitate to stop by her home when her dog got loose and escaped underneath the house. Another time, the woman complained about her teeth hurting, so Jim and Teri took her to East Cooper Community Outreach’s dental clinic. Teri remembers helping her fill out the medical forms and the woman made a joke about the line that asked “If you are female, are you pregnant?” As a woman in her 90s, “she just got the biggest kick out of that,” said Teri.
The dentist came out after a few short minutes of examining her teeth to let the Ingham’s know that she actually didn’t have any teeth – they were dentures. It made the couple laugh that she failed to mention the “minor” detail.
Judi and George Newton have been married for 50 years and volunteering with East Cooper Meals on Wheels has allowed them to do something together that benefits the community. They spend time making connections with the recipients and often find themselves chatting together about the recipients.
“We have different interests and this is something that’s been a really good thing to do together,” said Judi. “It just makes you feel like you’re really, really answering a need that’s in our community.”
George began delivering meals after retiring as a naval officer around 20 years ago and Judi was able to help during the summers since she was a teacher. Since Judi’s retirement three years ago, the couple has worked together as a team to bring meals to homebound residents.
During the typical hour and a half long route, Judi drives while George keeps a checklist of the recipients receiving meals. He will write down any requests or comments the recipients have and relay the information back to the organization.
One woman that stands out to the Newton’s on their delivery route is a recipient who lost her legs due to diabetes, yet Judi said she remains positive despite her circumstances. Judi said she is always well dressed with make-up on ready to greet the couple when they deliver the meals. “She’s just an inspiration,” said Judi.
Judi said many recipients have received their COVID-19 vaccinations so now they will come to the door to pick up the meals versus the volunteers dropping them off in a cooler. This allows George and Judi to check-in with the recipients to make sure all their needs are met.
George and Judi have four children and nine grandchildren, so they also keep busy with their big family.
Jim and Teri began volunteering in 1997, a few years after Jim retired from the United States Coast Guard. Over the years, the couple have spent many miles in the car delivering meals to homebound residents. Typically, Teri drives while Jim navigates – he said figuring out the route has gotten a lot easier thanks to GPS. Before, they used handwritten directions so it was easy to miss a small street.
Throughout their time with the organization, Jim and Teri have served in many different capacities, they’ve watched the leadership and staff change and Jim even had the opportunity to serve as CEO for two months during a transition period. He said he mostly answered phone calls and provided information since he knew a lot about the organization.
One aspect that stands out to Jim is the organization’s ability to find people who truly care about the mission.
“It amazes us how they’re able to bring in the right kind of people to staff the operation,” Jim said. “It takes a special talent to really engage people, draw them out and keep them smiling.”
When Jim and Teri aren’t delivering meals in the East Cooper area, they spend time traveling in their motorhome. They’ve been all over North America, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton, and many Canadian provinces. The couple has two children, one in Mount Pleasant and the other in Delaware, and four grandchildren.