Meals on Wheels is “good turn” for Rodriguez


PITTSBORO – Call it fate or destiny if you will, but all roads led Victor Rodriguez to knock on a door.

After moving to Chatham County from his native Puerto Rico two years ago, Rodriguez quickly availed himself of the programs and opportunities available at the Eastern Chatham Senior Center.

While he was aware of the Meals on Wheels program before passing through the Council on Aging’s doors that fateful day, it wasn’t necessarily front of mind at the time.

“I learned about (Meals on Wheels) from a friend of ours in Puerto Rico many years ago,” Rodriguez said. “She passed away, and I kind of forgot about it. So when we moved in town about two years ago, I was just driving around and I saw the senior center. And I just walked in to see what was going on, just to learn about it.”

That day, Rodriguez unknowingly walked into a friendly ambush. Linda Saum, the Council’s volunteer coordinator, was conducting a meeting and spotted the new face. She connected with the interests of Rodriguez and stressed that the Meals on Wheels program was in constant need of substitute drivers.

“Linda said, ‘I’m looking for new drivers!’” Rodriguez recalled. “She was having a meeting right there, so she pulled me into the meeting and my motto is do a good turn daily. That’s the (Boy) Scout motto, and I’ve been a Scout all my life. That was an offer for me to do something good for someone, daily.”

Rodriguez’s chance venture into the Eastern Center has transformed into a routine where he is a regular Meals on Wheels driver each Friday with potential substitute availability the remainder of the week.

With a daughter and grandchildren living in North Carolina, it was only a matter of time before Rodriguez and his wife, a dentist approaching retirement age, moved from the island to the U.S. mainland. However, Hurricane Maria’s deadly Category 5 impact in 2017 served to accelerate those plans.

Meals on Wheels volunteerism helps fuel Rodriguez’s need to remain active. He is also a participant in Chatham County Senior Games, taking part in cycling, tennis and swimming.

“The best satisfaction is when I talk to the clients,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lady that isn’t strong enough to open the milk container, so she asks me to open the container. They are so grateful that all of us go there once a day and bring them a meal.”

Rodriguez understands his communication with Meals on Wheels recipients could represent the only individual that they see each day. The quality of living conditions may vary, but the cheerful spirit of clients remains.

“I was impacted by this lady,” he explains. “Their house is just about to fall on them, and it was an impact because they live in such conditions and still, they don’t complain. They are so thankful that we bring them food.”

The dividends for new drivers, Rodriguez assures, are immediate and long-lasting.

“If you want to make an immediate difference in someone’s quality of life — for the moment, for the day, just to bring them that meal,” Rodriguez said. “That meal might be the only meal, the only hot meal that day.”

council on aging, meals on wheels, chatham