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Delivering more than a meal

Keweenaw Report got to ride along with Adam Johnson and Kora Melia as they delivered meals for Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly on Easter Sunday. Johnson refers to the pandemic experience as sterile compared to pre-virus protocols, but the time spent still leaves an impression on those helping and being helped alike. He has been doing it for years, and says it brings him closer to his neighbors.

It really gives you a sense of community, and you can see how it can be impactful to people that are very much in need. Members of our community that might not [have] seen another person for the last month, or two months in some cases.

After temperature checks, each driver is asked to prioritize regions for delivery. At the Houghton County hub, Grace United Methodist Church on Isle Royale Street, options included Atlantic Mine, Houghton, Hancock, among others. For Johnson and Melia, they ended up with five homes near US-41 in Chassell. Each meal came in its own bag, hand decorated by school children and garnished by a single flower poking out from the top. Those five stops totaled seven dinners, a small card letting volunteers know how many are for each home.

The weather was great, partly cloudy and 50 degrees, and the route was an easy one. All stops were completed in about 35 minutes. That includes some small talk. A theme among those receiving this year was mobility issues. Some of it due to age, others injury. One man talked about how easy it was to work with Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly. He also had firewood delivered for this past winter. A year and a half later, he is still recovering from a broken ankle suffered while he was cleaning off snow from his roof. He said that the help was a lifesaver until he could get a job again.

Melia says the conversations made it feel a bit more like old times. Helping cure loneliness is part of what the drivers normally do. Often, recipients welcome them inside.

One of those big mansions in Calumet. We got to visit someone in one of those, and it was just a gorgeous house. She took us all over and we got to sit and play with her dog for a little while.

In some ways, they are amateur therapists and Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly encourages volunteers to take note of those who seem to be struggling the most. “After the holiday, we would like to inquire after them to see if they would like to get more involved with our organization,” reads a letter given to drivers.

Johnson and Melia talk about rugged treks on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day through unplowed back roads where even Google Maps is unsure of the exact locations of each house. Meal delivery has become a part of their holiday by now. Johnson says they actively rearrange their schedule to make it work. The long line of vehicles at the staging area Sunday prove they aren’t alone in offering help. Hundreds of meals and hundreds of smiles are memories that never fade.

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