Volunteering can broaden one’s world, teenager says

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
If you walked to the back door of the Marion Senior Center at about 11 a.m. last Thursday, you would have smelled the aroma of hot roast beef wafting from the kitchen.

Inside, head cook Henrietta Waner and other volunteers were adding other food items to the roast beef in individual styrofoam containers-a scoop of mashed potatoes, plus a ladle of gravy, a pile of creamy cucumbers, a roll and a slice of chocolate-orange cake.

Volunteers prepare about 75 meals daily, and about 30 of those are readied for home deliveries in Florence and Marion, Waner said.

At the end of the assembly line, Zachary Ewert, 18, placed eight of those meals into an insulated chest. A volunteer driver for Meals-on-Wheels, Ewert and “meal runner,” Darrell Weigart, 76, loaded the chest in the car trunk and took off to deliver the meals to elderly residents in Marion.

“I use my grandmother’s car because it has more trunk space for the coolers,” said Ewert, whose paternal grandmother is Doris Ewert. She and Zachary’s parents, Gary and Elaine Ewert, all live in Marion.

This summer Zachary Ewert usually delivers nine meals at a time, but he has handled as many as 16 or more, he said.

This past Thursday, the meals included a main dish, a fruit, vegetable, milk and some sort of dessert, he said.

Ewert has been volunteering with Meals-on-Wheels during the summer since after his eighth grade year.

“I’d run meals to the people that couldn’t get out to eat,” Ewert said. “This summer they’re wanting me to drive.”

He puts in about an hour each week, starting at about 11 a.m.

“Up until this year, I’d go in every day of the week-Monday through Friday-except holidays,” he said. “This year I’m coming in on Thursdays to drive.”

Ewert started volunteering at the center after he talking with his grandmother, who is in her mid-80s.

“My grandma told me they needed some help down at the Senior Center, and I figured it would be some good community service hours,” he said. “But now I enjoy going down every summer and helping out and talking to them-they’re friendly people.”

Sometimes he goes in early to play pool with some of the men.

As the only teenager who donates his time to Meals-on-Wheels, Ewert said some youth might shy away from spending time at the Senior Center because they don’t feel comfortable.

“But then they volunteer with them and they find they aren’t so bad,” he said, adding that the experience can help broaden their world.

Last spring, Ewert was recognized for actively serving his community when he received the Kansas Lt. Governor’s Community Star award.

Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer established the award “to recognize the outstanding contributions of Kansas high school students to either communities,” according to www.
americaspromise.org Web site.

Ewert said he’s always found it easy to talk with older people.

“I think it’s a good idea for little kids to do some volunteer work. It’s always good for them,” he said. “If they volunteer at the Senior Center, like I did, they get to know people and how they are doing.”

Waner said she appreciates Ewert’s service.

“He’s volunteered for a couple of years,” she said. “His efforts help older people. “Any kid that is willing to drive or deliver meals is welcome.”

In fact, workers of any age are welcome to help at the Marion Senior Center.

“Even volunteering at 81 comes in handy,” said Jane Makoveca, as she smiled and wiped the kitchen countertop.

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