CHICO >> In 44 years, Doris Arbuckle has seen the Chico community become a place that cares about its elderly. It hasn”t always been that way, she said.
“In the ”60s, there was nothing for the aging in this town,” she said. “No one thought about the needs of the elderly.”
In 1968, Arbuckle was one of the founders of the Chico Area Council on Aging, and one of the programs it started was Meals on Wheels in 1970. “There was a group of us, we were just concerned about older people. For years, we met in the lounge at First Presbyterian Church. It was all very informal. We did a study on resources for the elderly: health, counseling, education, culture, leisure, retirement planning, and legal and financial planning.”
The council worked with Butte County Health Department, Social Security Administration and other agencies. It started a few things for seniors too, including the Friendly Visitor Program. It essentially made sure isolated seniors had some kind of contact with another person, usually by phone, once a day.
“Enloe took that over,” she said.
Members of the Chico Area Council on Aging were concerned that elderly people were not getting enough to eat — or the right things to eat.
“When my father became elderly, he was unable to cook for himself and there was no one to cook for him. I was busy with my own family, and I had to make sure he had meals. My experience with him changed how I thought about it.”
The council started Meals on Wheels with three volunteer drivers. “I remember the first day in 1971, we delivered four meals. In 2009, we delivered 26,709 meals.”
Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit organization, and those who receive meals are asked to pay a nominal fee.
Meals are prepared at Enloe Medical Center”s kitchen and are delivered every day. A nutritious meal is the main point, and considerations are made for individual health concerns. But there is another benefit for those receiving the meals, she said.
“For some of them, the person who delivers their meals is the only other person they see, so it”s also a way to make sure people are OK.”
Arbuckle was secretary for the Meals on Wheels board of directors for years. “I had to step down because my hearing is not so good,” she said. “But I”m still on the board.”
She remembers other early board members who worked along with her to get services for the elderly. “There was Marge and Dick Maddux, B.W. Shaper … Peg Taylor was so supportive and resourceful. Really, there were so many people who cared about this in the beginning.”
Arbuckle said Chico Meals on Wheels is not connected to any state or federal program. It is the Chico Area Council on Aging”s primary project. Its director and delivery drivers are paid; everyone else volunteers.
It does receive city funding, and takes part in North Valley Community Foundation”s Annie B”s fundraising drive. Numerous clubs and organizations support Meals on Wheels, including Rotary, Exchange Club and Soroptimists.
What started out as the “$30-a-year club” has evolved to $40-a-year. The fundraising program has ensured community support for Meals on Wheels. “We always need funding, especially when you consider the price of gas,” she said.
Arbuckle, who graduated from Chico High School, worked as a legal secretary. Her husband is deceased.
At 86, she likes to golf. “Well, I”m not a golfer; I hit the ball,” she laughed.
She is a Soroptimist and a life member of Salvation Army, where she serves on the advisory board. She is a member of Las Senoras and volunteers at Patrick Ranch.
Arubuckle said she knows she will reach a point when she will no longer want to grocery shop or cook. That”s another good thing about Meals on Wheels, she said: Those who receive meals don”t have to be ill or disabled. You can simply want help.
“When you think about Meals on Wheels, anybody and everybody could need it. I am proud of it and pleased with it.”
Contact reporter Mary Nugent at 896-7764.
FACTS ABOUT MEALS ON WHEELS:
Founded in 1971
26,845 meals delivered in 2012
Nonprofit administered by unpaid board of directors
For details or to offer support, 343-9417