By Phyl Newbeck
Jane Gage moved to Hinesburg a dozen years ago and almost immediately she began looking for ways to contribute to the local community. Last month her volunteer work with Meals on Wheels was recognized with a Building Block Award from the United Way of Chittenden County. “I actually started out wanting to be a driver,” said Gage “but they asked me to be the coordinator instead. It sounds like a big job but it’s just a matter of scheduling the drivers and making some phone calls. It’s not particularly time consuming.” Gage’s job is to plan the monthly schedule. In addition, she drives one of the routes, relishing the contact she has with the seniors.
Meals on Wheels is run by the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging. The program provides a hot lunch to shut-in seniors Monday through Friday and includes a roll and butter, milk, and dessert. Those who need weekend meals can also have frozen entrees delivered at the end of the week. Drivers are on a fairly tight schedule but some allow time between deliveries to talk to their clients and others return to visit with some seniors at the end of their shifts.
Gage is a transplant from Michigan who used to drive through Vermont to visit her kids at their New Hampshire boarding school. “I spent a lot of time going back and forth,” she said. When one daughter wound up at the University of Vermont (UVM) playing varsity field hockey and ice hockey, Gage decided it was time to make her move. “When I turned 50 I packed up my house in Michigan and moved out here not knowing a soul,” she said. “It was quite an adventure.”
Through Meals on Wheels, Gage has gotten to know a number of people in her adopted town. “Hinesburg is a pretty tight community,” she said. “There are folks who were born and raised in the village and moved, maybe a mile away. There are a lot of families that have intermarried and its fun to learn about that. A lot of people have shared their stories.” In addition to her work with Meals on Wheels, Gage volunteers at the food shelf. She mentored at Hinesburg Community School for eight years but is taking a break from that while she investigates the possibility of doing hospice work. “I love older people,” she said “and if I can sit there and make someone happy that would be great.”
Gage was honored to receive the Building Block award but doesn’t believe it should have gone to one person. “Some of these drivers have been volunteering for years and years,” she said. “I’ve got one driver who goes out every Wednesday, all year long. That’s real commitment and way more than what I do.” Gage truly enjoys the work she does with Meals on Wheels. “Giving back is so important,” she said. “I’ve been given so much in my life. I think it’s very important to do for others what they can’t do and hopefully if I ever need the help, someone would do it for me as well. It’s been a great experience.”
By Phyl Newbeck