Last month, Donald Trump’s budget reform generated controversy as he claimed that the national Meals on Wheels program cost the United States too much in taxpayer dollars. The truth, according to USA Today, is that while Trump’s first proposal to Congress did mention immense cuts to many domestic programs, Meals on Wheels isn’t one of them, because it isn’t run by the federal government.
Even after learning that Trump can’t take the wheels off the meals so easily, I couldn’t stand by when I realized an organization whose purpose is to help people avoid starvation was potentially in peril. I whipped out my phone and took the five minutes needed to apply as a volunteer driver. Apparently, I’m not alone in my politically rooted philanthropy. Iris Bruton, a public relations specialist for Meals on Wheels Inc. of Tarrant County, said, “When the president first released his budget priorities calling for cuts to programs like Meals on Wheels, we saw an increase in the number of volunteers who wanted to help due to the media coverage.”
Bruton said that a little more than 5,000 volunteers work for Meals on Wheels in Tarrant County, and without them, she added, it would be impossible to prepare, package, and deliver the 1 million meals per year on average that they do. Tarrant’s Meals on Wheels provided meals to 4,318 people last fiscal year, delivering around 3,700 meals each day, according to the organization’s vice president of volunteer services, Nedra Cutler.
At my ride–along and orientation a few weeks later on the East Side, I talked to a fellow do-gooder and also my trainer for the day, Keith Wills.
“I retired and wasn’t doing anything,” the spry septuagenarian and Fort Worth resident of more than 50 years said. “I was going nuts. You know, you’re supposed to do things for other people, and I hadn’t been doing that, so I thought, ‘Whatever,’ and here I am.”
Wills said he was disappointed in the talk of cutting funding for Meals on Wheels. “When you’re in your 70s, you just take what comes along. Either way, the amount of government, big or small, doesn’t matter too much if there’s still honest people willing to help out … I guess.”
Wills said he’s met some of the kindest people in places he would have never thought to look while delivering and wishes more people would adopt his relatively newfound charitable outlook.
“Our elected officials have difficult decisions to make when it comes to funding levels for these types of service programs,” Bruton said.
Unfortunately, the whole thing gets politically murky because 45 percent of the county’s Meals on Wheels’ budget came from various federal, state, and local government funding sources last year.
“The good news is that in our 45-year history, we have never had to put anyone on a waiting list for services,” she said. “This outstanding record has only been possible because of the compassion that people in our community have for one another.”
I agree with Wills about how if a handful of people are out doing good in the world, there’s still hope for this country. I’m ecstatic I found a way to protest Trump that does good right here in Fort Worth. My first solo delivery is Thursday. Wish me luck.