Volunteer puts brakes on Meals-On-Wheel route

Guy Kalland

Guy Kalland won’t be hitting the road again anytime soon, at least not for Northfield’s Meals-On-Wheels program.

After 20 years of owning the Tuesday “Blue Route” September through May, he is rolling to a stop.

“It was always an enjoyable hour,” said the long-time varsity basketball coach at Carleton College as he reflected on his weekly regimen. “I couldn’t wait to get to Tuesdays. It was a mini-sabbatical for me, especially if we were coming off of a Monday night loss.”

Guy has been the consummate volunteer, showing up faithfully each Tuesday noon, delivering meals to a mostly senior population in the northwest part of town and reveling in the interaction with the friends he made along the way. Conservative back of the envelope calculations suggest he has donated more than 800 hours of his time and logged some 4,500 miles.

Jean Callister-Benson, who chairs the board of directors for the all-volunteer Meals-On-Wheels program, said Guy’s dedication and commitment has been above and beyond what is expected of any volunteer.

“His has been a remarkable run,” Jean said. “His faithful service has been a lifeline to so many people throughout the years. And it is clear that he got us much of it as he put into it, as most of our volunteers do.”

For almost 40 years, Meals-On-Wheels has been providing nutritional meals to older adults and people with disabilities who are unable to prepare their meals or unable to travel to a site where meals are served.  Priority is given to those 60 and up who have a permanent or temporary illness, injury or disability and those 18-60 who are certified disabled by the State of Minnesota.

The food is prepared by Nutrition Services at Northfield Hospital. Individual volunteers and drivers recruited by churches, services clubs, businesses, colleges and schools deliver some 6,500 meals annually.

“It is truly a magical operation,” Jean said. “It requires a great deal of organization and our community embraces this important safety-net service and makes it happen. That’s what makes it so special.”

For his part, Guy more or less eased into the program. He appreciates the fact that his employer, Carleton College, supports community involvement, and he has flexibility over the noon hour. Meals-On-Wheels took him off campus and gave him a chance to see a different slice of Northfield.

What he found on his route was a wonderful group of elderly women who were sharp, articulate and filled with gratitude for the program. Without it, most would not be able to remain in their own homes.

What he learned over the two decades on his route is this: 1) women, on average, do, indeed, live longer than men; 2) People are quick to announce their affiliation with either St. Olaf or Carleton College; 3) “How are you?” can be a leading question; 4) a Meals-On-Wheels driver becomes an “ancillary weatherman,” confirming or contradicting the latest forecast; 5) and technology, such as FaceTime, is a huge help to keeping grandparents in touch with their grandkids.

As he steps back from the program, Guy takes with him many stories and many fond memories of the people he met along the way.

“You do develop relationships and get to know the people on your route, no doubt,” Guy said.

If you want to learn more about the Meals-On-Wheels program, call 507-646-1021.