Laketran CEO delivers Meals on Wheels to raise awareness

Laketran CEO Ben Capelle, right, and Lake County Council on Aging volunteer Denis Hite deliver a warm meal to a Painesville resident during Community Champions Week. Photo credit: Chad Felton, News-Herald

Chad Felton | The News-Herald

Laketran Dial-a-Ride drivers typically take seniors and people with disabilities around Lake County to get to work, medical appointments or shopping.  However, on March 18, the start of Community Champions Week, Laketran CEO Ben Capelle took the driver’s seat, and with the help of Lake County Council on Aging volunteer Denis Hite, delivered Meals on Wheels throughout Perry and Painesville Township to bring attention to the needs of seniors who are home bound and unable to drive.

Meals on Wheels is a national nutrition program for home bound seniors, locally operated by Lake County Council on Aging.

“I volunteered because I wanted to help raise awareness of the Meals on Wheels program,” Capelle said. “A lot of our Dial-a-Ride customers appreciate our service because it allows them to remain independent in their homes and I see a lot of similar benefits from the Meals on Wheels. It’s great to see seniors who are able to reside in their homes longer. And while the hot meal is very important, you can tell the daily visits and socialization from the volunteers provides a security for seniors living alone, reducing their isolation.”

Hite agrees.

Lake County Council on Aging unveils plans for March for Meals “Not only are we providing meals, but many of the residents look forward to sharing how their day’s been,” he said. “Sometimes, I’m the only person they may talk with all day. They really
appreciate the time.”

Capelle added that Laketran serves a very similar demographic.  “Men tend to outlive their driving ability by about six years and women by about 10 years, and more seniors are living alone,” he said. “Services like Dial-a-Ride and Meals on Wheels are becoming more and more critical for seniors to be able to age in place in the comfort of their homes.”

Capelle said the “Silver Tsunami,” a metaphor for the aging baby-boom generation, will continue to demand more senior services.

He added both Dial-a-Ride and Meals on Wheels are already seeing an increase in services.

According to a news release, Dial-a-Ride service has grown 18 percent over the last five years, providing 300,000 annual trips, while the Council on Aging staff and volunteers delivered over 170,000 meals last year, a 3.1 percent increase over 2017.
“As the number of Lake County seniors continues to increase, so does the need for home-delivered meals to our residents who are unable to prepare their own meals,” said Nancy Neihus, who oversees Council on Aging’s nutrition programs.

“Clients may be unable to drive, others have difficulty obtaining food, or have physical or cognitive impairments that make cooking and cleaning up impossible,” she said. “The majority of Meals on Wheels home-delivered meal client demographics are 85-plus
years old with 66 percent being frail or disabled and 56 percent living alone.”

Though he’s only been volunteering since October, Hite has established rapport with the people he serves.

“I love the people, they are so grateful,” said the Painesville Township resident and retired auxiliary lieutenant colonel with Ohio State Highway Patrol, who has also worked for FirstEnergy Corp. and three fire departments. “I really enjoy the time and hearing different stories. This is a great cause.”