Get to know one of our dedicated Meals on Wheels Drivers: Coleen Riley. For Coleen, her family is one of the most important aspects of her life and a driving factor behind her motivation & willingness to volunteer throughout the community. Coleen initially began volunteering at her church for the neighborhood luncheons and at the food pantry. She enjoyed the feeling of being able to prepare meals for individuals along with working with others & meeting new people from the community.
She says "The feeling of satisfaction when we were told we had fed over 80 families...amazing!"
Coleen began volunteering with Southern Rhode Island Volunteers as a Meals on Wheels driver in September of 2017. After she saw the budget cuts made to the program that would no longer allow for weekend deliveries, Coleen began to wonder how she could help.
"I saw the post for the need for Meals on Wheels driver and well, I thought... if this isn’t a sign I don’t know what is!"
Her desire to volunteer ultimately stems from her family and the struggles they endured together. In 2009, Coleen was diagnosed with breast cancer while her mother was battling Alzheimer's Disease. In an instant, her family's life changed drastically. They had no financial cushion which resulted in literally living on pennies. However, even though she had lost everything, Coleen had her family. Because she had her mother and her daughter they made it TOGETHER! When her mother passed away in July of 2017, Coleen vowed to find a way to make a difference in the lives of elders.
"What is important NOW has nothing to do with material things. What is important is utilizing the time I have left to making a difference."
Volunteering gives her such a sense of purpose and accomplishment that she even encourages her daughter and friends to lend a hand when they are on school breaks!
Coleen told us the story of a memorable experience she had with a woman who she delivers meals to in Narragansett. Coleen lives in Warwick and when the woman found our that she travels from Warwick to Narragansett to deliver meals, the client questioned why she would drive so far to do this for them. Coleen says, "I took a minute to gather my thoughts and answered, "I do it because I wasn't able to have these moments with my parents". I went on to explain about my mother and how I enjoy Wednesdays "with mom" going to South County and down to the beaches that she loved. I explained that it brought a bit of sunshine into my life after losing my mother. I told her I consider it a privilege to be allowed into these people's lives and homes. This wonderful woman was blown away by my reply. She had tears, I had tears..."
Coleen has a large vision and several goals for giving back. Meals on Wheels has allowed her to personally meet and assist some of our elders. Her other goals include developing a program which would help families in need when a medical catastrophe hits and to volunteer for the American Cancer Society in any capacity so she can be there for those going through the same as she did.
For Coleen, volunteering with Meals on Wheels has been the best medicine for getting her life back on track. She is a great example of how volunteering can change your life for the better!