June 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Stacey Yusko, Executive Director of the CH/Carrboro Meals on Wheels
Please help celebrate The Arc's wonderful partnership with Meals on Wheels by supporting the first annual "Dining for Dollars" to benefit Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels.
When? Thursday, June 5, 2014 from 6-9pm, Hickory Tavern in Carrboro!
The evening will include a wonderful dinner menu selection provided by Hickory Tavern, and a silent auction that will offer a golf package for 4 at Pinehurst #8, a one week stay at an all-inclusive resort in Aruba, beach and mountain home rentals, UNC/Duke basketball tickets, UNC football tickets, a private party at Monkee’s, a Governor’s Club golf package, and more!! Tickets to the event are $30 and can be purchased on the web site.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT BY PURCHASING TICKETS: HERE
"DINING FOR DOLLARS" SITE: HERE
“The Arc volunteers are not just 'Arc volunteers.' [They] come in to work seamlessly and carry the load; when they aren’t here, I have to get someone to pick up the slack. We depend on them,” says Stacey Yusko, Executive Director of the CH/Carrboro Meals on Wheels.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels mission statement is to “provide a hot nutritious meal and personal visit Monday through Friday to those individuals living in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the surrounding area who are unable to prepare meals for themselves due to illness, disability, or convalescence in order to improve their health, reduce isolation and help them maintain independent living.” Meals on Wheels started in 1976 so it’s been in Chapel Hill since then. There are no rules, guidelines, or trademarks, but rather each program operates independently as fits their community. The majority of the meals are purchased from K&W, but they also receive donations from places like Whole Foods, Panera, and Harris Teeter. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels operates out of Binkley Baptist Church, but is quickly outgrowing their space.
When current director, Stacey Yusko, first started in 2009, they were only delivering about 65 meals a day. Now, with over 150 volunteers, they deliver 140 meals a day on 12 different routes. Here is what they say about their volunteers: “Meals on Wheels would cease to exist without the tireless dedication of our volunteers. These are people who have boundless energy and optimism, many of whom have busy lives, with families, careers and other commitments. But they make time to help. And that makes all the difference.” Over the past decade, several Arc participants have become committed and valuable volunteers of the organization. Yusko speaks about the impact the partnership with The Arc has had on the participants and the community as a whole.
How did you hear about The Arc of Orange County? How does Meals on Wheels partner with The Arc?
It (the partnership) was in place before I got here. One of the Tuesday volunteers has been delivering for at least 10 years. Susan Chandler, The Arc’s Director of Volunteer and Social Opportunities and I started matching people up more a few years ago. As we have grown, we have added more routes. I remember calling Susan and asking her if she had people. When I need volunteers, I know they have some. The Meals on Wheels director used to do everything herself, now the people who come in and do set up has changed the way meals on wheels operates. It takes a massive amount of work off of me and is a much better way for the organization to be. These people are able to handle it and they do it well.
I think it’s good for my volunteers to have The Arc volunteers in here because it breaks down the barriers. Arc participants have a purpose and want to be able to do something positive in the community. We have Arc volunteers from all spectrums and where it used to jolt people to have differences, now nothing is out of the bounds of working. It’s exposing the larger world to a larger population that is more unique and now the larger world is becoming more comfortable with differences.
It goes beyond just the partnership; some of our people have adopted some of their people on a different level, outside the volunteer placement. At Christmas time a group of volunteers contributed to a Christmas gift basket to one of the participants. People have really adopted him. They are not just breaking down barriers, but also inviting them in to the community and the Meals on Wheels community.
What ways do you find this rewarding?
Satisfying that basic human need is very satisfying. We want everyone to have a meal. Knowing you are helping someone stay at home but putting food on the table, I get a charge out of talking to people and feel like we are improving their lives. Working with our volunteers has helped. On a personal level I get good information all the time. Meeting a broader group of people I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I think it’s really nice to see how there are so many people invested in the community.
Do you think that your work with The Arc makes a difference?
I think it’s copacetic; it's a beautiful partnership because it benefits both parts equally. They are relieving a burden for me and its purposeful work and meaningful to them. It's a 50/50. One volunteer has Down syndrome. He knows the clients backwards and forwards and he knows if something is off. He suits the job perfectly because of that. The Arc volunteers are not just “Arc volunteers.” The ones that come in work seamlessly and carry the load and when they aren’t here I have to get someone to pick up the slack. We depend on them.
If you could do one thing to change the world what would it be?
I would do something on a local level. Several people have been displaced from their homes, and if I could change anything in the area, then everyone would have a safe, warm place to live. The rent went up and they can’t do it. They qualify for section 8 vouchers, and some go to homeless shelters. You could not know where you are going to be the next day. We need affordable housing.