The Monday Crew

Left to Right: Carleen Mitchell, Meals on Wheels President Jo Vandenbrink, June Chapman and Francie Duffield prepare hot meals for Claremore residents who can’t leave their homes.

Bright and early Monday morning, three ladies arrive at Claremore Meals on Wheels to begin their week with an act of kindness.

June Chapman, Carleen Mitchell and Francie Duffield have been volunteering with Meals on Wheels between three and seven years.

Chapman is a 40 year resident of Claremore who worked for a local optometrist before her retirement.

Mitchell was raised in Claremore, graduated from Claremore High School, and worked in the finance industry for decades before she retired and took over directorship of the Claremore non-profit The Manger.

Born and raised in Muskogee, Duffield and her husband lived in Nashville, Tennessee for 20 years before retiring to Claremore where they could be close to their grown children.

For Chapman, it was a friend at church who encouraged her to spend time volunteering with Meals on Wheels.

Duffield said, “My husband met one of the drivers, and he asked us to come.”

“We had just moved from Nashville, and I was recently retired, and we were looking around for things that we could do,” Duffield said.

Mitchell was at a leadership meeting representing the Manger among other United Way affiliates. The president of Meals on Wheels at the time was present and searching for volunteers.

“Once you retire you feel like you need to start giving back,” Mitchell said.

The others agreed while they ladled peaches and smashed ground beef into balls for burgers.

“We know people need help,” Chapman said. “And we know that if we needed the help, there would be someone there to help us.”

“There is a great need,” Duffield said. “Some of the people are elderly or have health conditions, and this is a good thing for them.”

In addition to her Monday morning shift in the kitchen, Duffield delivers the meals with her husband. Occasionally, before the pandemic, they would bring their grandchildren along.

“The kids take the food up to the front door and the people in the house like to see the children, it’s a treat for both,” Duffield said.

Now Duffield and her husband, and the dozens of other volunteers on Monday mornings, suit up in a mask and gloves protect the health and safety of those to whom they deliver food.

The volunteers take their role in the community very seriously. They are caretakers of members in the community who need the most care.

“A lot of them have no family to help them out, they are just alone,” Chapman said. “If it wasn’t for Meals on Wheels I think some of them would be in a nursing home or facility where they might not want to be.”

When Duffield, Chapman and Mitchell aren’t at Meals on Wheels, they are volunteering their times at other community food services.

“Our faith teaches us that we are supposed to do things like that,” Duffield said.

“It gets you out of the house and with people to visit with,” Chapman said, adding again, “If I needed it, I would know that there is somebody there to do it.”

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