In 2015, the King County Meals on Wheels program delivered over 400,000 tasty and nutritious meals from approximately 35 locations scattered around the county. Second only to Seattle, the Kent Senior Activities Center (KSAC) accounted for 34,945 of those deliveries, supported in a key role by RSVP.
The volunteer coordinator for the Kent program is RSVP volunteer Ed DeVange. Operating out of one small office and one small production room, Ed’s program is a model of efficiency, with 17 active volunteers processing and delivering over 700 meals a week.
Participants in the program receive up to 14 frozen meals per week – breakfasts and dinners. Seven breakfast choices range from Cinnamon French Toast to a Breakfast Burrito. Twenty-seven dinner options include Roast Turkey & Gravy, Tuna Casserole, and Vegetarian Spaghetti. The meals come with sides of fruit, vegetables, and rice or potatoes.
For those with special diets, each item is tagged as either low fat, low sodium, or both. Each meal is labelled with cooking instructions for microwave or oven.
The process begins on Friday when two volunteers call all potential customers (Ed prefers the term ‘customers’ over ‘clients, because, he says “lawyers have clients!”), take their orders, and enter them into a computer.
On Monday, Ed prints the order forms and organizes them by driving route (there are seven routes). The meals are delivered to KSAC on Tuesday and warehoused in freezers by route. On Wednesday, six volunteers (the oldest is 95) pack orders in tote bags by customer and route and return them to the freezer. On Thursday, the drivers load up and make their deliveries. And on Friday the process begins again.
Underplaying his own role in the process, Ed says his supervision amounts to a cheerful “Good Morning” to everyone and then getting out of the way.
Ed credits the hard work and organizational skills of his fellow volunteers for the success and productivity of the program.
Melissa Pallanes, Meals on Wheels Volunteer Support Specialist, may beg to differ. She says, “Ed is an exceptional Volunteer Coordinator for Meals on Wheels. He is not only dedicated to serving our ‘customers’ in Kent, he is remarkable at supporting the other volunteers at the site with his kindness and organizational skills. One of the many thank you notes we received from clients last year said ‘These volunteers are heroes!’ and I could not agree more.”
Born and raised in Eastern Washington, Ed’s family was deeply committed to serving the community they lived in. His father, a lawyer, belonged to every organization in the area while his mother was a den mother and an active member of the PTA. Contributing to the community was a way of life and part of the family DNA.
Ed’s father died suddenly at a young age, and after high school Ed joined the Navy, where he served for six years. When he got out, his mother had remarried a Boeing engineer and moved to Seattle. Ed followed and landed a job at Boeing.
At Boeing, Ed started one grade below the bottom and 36 years later retired as a third level operations manager. Ed and his wife moved all over the country with Boeing, working programs such as the Minuteman missile, the lunar rover, Apollo, and the hydrofoil boat program. He credits his own drive and the help and mentoring of others as instrumental to his moving up in the ranks.
In 1998 Ed retired – by his own admission – to a life of “playing with my boats and drinking beer.” Unsatisfied and unfulfilled, he soon embarked on a 12-year career as a volunteer GED teacher, where he helped 65 students earn their certificates.
In 2013 Ed’s wife (also an RSVP Meals on Wheels volunteer) joined the “Readers’ Theater” group at the KSAC. When KSAC Volunteer Program Coordinator Helena Reynolds learned about Ed’s background, she told him, “I’ve got a job for you!”
Besides keeping busy, Ed gets “lots of satisfaction” from his work as volunteer coordinator and he is proud to continue his family’s bedrock value of giving back.