Meet a winner of the 2023 Marcus Lampros Volunteer Awards, given to eight outstanding volunteers who exemplify our values: Integrity, Respect, Inclusion, Creativity, Commitment, and Teamwork.
Peggy Kerl likes to talk. It’s what made her successful in her 30-year career as a sales manager for a national food company, and it’s what makes her an outstanding volunteer at the Meals on Wheels People Cherry Blossom Center located at the East Portland Community Center.
“I’m used to talking to people I don’t know,” Peggy said. “So when I get new clients, I say: ‘Hi, I’m Peggy. I’m going to be here every Monday, so you can look forward to seeing me — or not. I’ll be here, though. You can count on it.”
Peggy has spent over 1,300 hours volunteering for MOWP over the past 10 years. On Mondays, she delivers meals before working in the dining room during the congregate meal. On Tuesdays, she helps to pack meals for the next day’s drivers. And on Wednesdays, she’s back again to help serve lunch.
“Peggy is always ready to help out by taking an extra route when needed, and our clients love her,” wrote Cherry Blossom Home Delivery Coordinator Sarah Vhay in her nomination for Peggy. “She was the first one to return all of her clients’ surveys, making sure to take time to help clients who were struggling to respond. She keeps our meal-packing crew laughing and motivated, and we’re so grateful for her dedication to our mission.”
Peggy knows that delivering meals helps people live longer, more nourished lives, but the social connections are equally as important, she said: “That’s my most important job — just a friendly, ‘Hi!’ It lets our clients know they matter, and we care about them. We might be the only person they see in the entire day.”
During deliveries, Peggy not only makes time for friendly conversations, but she also helps clients get connected to other services and support they need. “People hopefully think of us as a resource also,” she said. “They know they can count on us for other things. Last summer, I delivered an air conditioner to someone who needed an air conditioner. He was so thankful.”
Peggy is thankful, too. She loves the connections she made with clients, the MOWP staff, and her fellow volunteers — and she talks about it a lot. She was recently soaking in the hot tub after a swim at the East Portland Community Center and started talking with a woman. “She said she recently retired, and I said, ‘If you’re looking for something to do, Meals on Wheels could always use volunteers.” The woman is now a dishwasher at Cherry Blossom Center on Mondays and Wednesdays. “Enthusiasm is contagious,” Peggy said with a smile.
We need volunteers to provide critical support to the older adults we serve. Become a part of our volunteer family and help change a life, one meal and friendly connection at a time. Visit mowp.org/volunteer.