Photo by Nolan P. Schmidt
Erik Kiesz had a desire to help his community in a deeper capacity. After hearing an ad on a radio station in Sioux Falls looking for volunteers for the local Meals on Wheels program, he decided to give it a shot. That was in 2007. Now 14 years later, Kiesz is still delivering hot meals to seniors through Meals on Wheels.
“I was wanting to do it and I just fell in love with it,” Kiesz said. “I love the people. I’ve met some great volunteers. This is something I definitely want to do, so I kept doing it on a weekly basis.” When a new job brought him to Fargo, he contacted Valley Senior Services, the organization that coordinates Meals on Wheels in North Dakota, to find his next route.
Meals on Wheels really showed me that I can be closer with serving the public. There’s a need out there for delivering meals and there’s a need out there for people to have that eye-to-eye contact and have that conversation.Erik Kiesz, Meals on Wheels Volunteer
Valley Senior Services delivers Meals on Wheels to more than 600 seniors Monday through Friday in Cass, Steele, Traill, Ransom, Sargent and Richland counties. Meals on Wheels routes typically only take one hour to complete, delivering to eight to 12 clients. Kiesz now delivers along a route in North Fargo every Friday afternoon.
“One person would actually be standing holding the door open for me,” Kiesz said. “She knew I was coming. People like that have just been absolutely wonderful.”
Services like Meals on Wheels allow seniors to maintain their independence and stay in their homes later into life. This makes Meals on Wheels an invaluable asset to the FargoMoorhead community and surrounding counties as it benefits the quality of life of our senior residents.
“The big thing for me is to go out and make a difference,” Kiesz said. “That’s what gets me out of bed and drives me through the day and I take that approach to everything I do. Just seeing a smile on their face when you hand them the meal, it speaks volumes in its own right. You know that you made their day.”
Although the visits are brief, the meal deliveries are a bright spot in the day for the clients as well as Kiesz. “I think just to have that eye-to-eye contact and that conversation, even though it only lasts a few seconds, really makes their day,” Kiesz said. “I can definitely hear it in their tone and see it in their faces. That’s impactful, to share stories and have some fun. Meals on Wheels is a big part of my life. It’s totally had a huge impact on me.”
One can hear the joy and the passion for serving the community in Kiesz’s own voice. Kiesz noted that many of those he delivers to don’t have family around, they’re isolated. Just saying hello can have a tremendous impact.
“Meals on Wheels really showed me that I can be closer with serving the public. There’s a need out there for delivering meals and there’s a need out there for people to have that eye-to-eye contact and have that conversation.”
There is an increased need for services like Meals on Wheels in the community with the current pandemic. Many senior citizens may want to remain in their homes and minimize trips outside, like to the grocery store, to stay safe and healthy as they are a more vulnerable demographic. Valley Senior Services has been committed to providing those housebound with hot meals and taking safety precautions, including wearing masks and gloves and sanitizing regularly, to ensure the continued health of Meals on Wheels’ clients and volunteers.
“The ability to spend an hour delivering meals to these people that need it, who wouldn’t get food otherwise, always leaves me feeling really gratified,” Kiesz said.
The number of meals and volunteers needed for Meals on Wheels has grown as the number of referrals to the program increases, resulting in more delivery routes. Each volunteer delivers 10 to 12 meals, which tends to take about an hour. “Just go and take that first step,” Kiesz said about volunteering with Meals on Wheels. “You will be blessed beyond blessed, and it only takes an hour. I’m sure if you can find an hour, you will want to do it again and again.”
Meals on Wheels