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Snapshot: At 89, York man focused on helping others

BIL BOWDEN
YorkDispatch


John Wolfe likes helping people, specifically home-bound senior citizens who can't help themselves.

So, every Monday, he packs the trunk of his blue Chevy Cobalt with lunches for Meals on Wheels clients and heads out to his rounds.

It'll take less than two hours. It makes him feel good, he said.

Wolfe knows he's fortunate. At 89 years old, the West Manchester Township man is older than most of the people having their lunch delivered.

Wolfe graduated from West York High School 63 years ago and joined the Navy Air Force to fight in World War II.

But he's spry, walks strong, is an excellent driver ("PennDOT says I have to wear glasses," he grouses), and is in his 17th year delivering what might be the only hot meal these seniors get all day.

He gets to know his clients, their maladies and their loves. But he never gets too close, even with a former high school classmate, whom he gives a gentle peck on the cheek before walking out the door. "Keep it all business," he says.

He began this adventure when he was 72.

Getting started: On the day I followed him, Wolfe would deliver hot lunches to 13 clients, all of the meals prepared at the White Rose Senior Center.

The seniors will be given three hot meals, two cold meals and two frozen meals per week.

White Rose, the largest of 10 senior centers that deliver meals in York County, would make 125 dinners that day. In just one month, 644 clients receive more than 16,000 meals in York.

Clients are older than 60, are unable to cook and are referred to the centers by the York County Area Agency on Aging.

An assessor sees that all the seniors are qualified for the program.

White Rose director Lisa Krout said finding drivers is a constant need.

"We explore ways to recruit drivers at all our board meetings," she says.

All the lunches must be delivered, and Krout finds herself delivering meals. Sometimes, her father is pressed into duty.

No age requirement: Drivers can drive routes near their homes as often as they want.

Wolfe drives the Pleasureville and northeast areas once a week. Others drive three times a week.

Drivers are most often retired and sometimes bring their grandchildren along for the ride: "It shows kids the goodness of giving," said Krout.

School teachers and students help out during summer break, and York College sorority Delta Phi Epsilon begins its third year when classes start up again.

There is no age requirement, although Wolfe might be the oldest driver.

They need only a driver's license, insurance and a "driving need to help home-bound seniors," said Krout.

Most routes are 20-25 miles, although some of the more rural are up to 50 miles.

Lunches are delivered from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Volunteers are needed as fill-ins during vacations, illness or weather.

Wolfe needs a fill-in only two days a year, he said.

"On Christmas and Father's Day," he said. "Lisa knows I fly home to see my daughter in Ohio ... The only reason I'm not here is if I'm sick."