April 30, 2007

Meals on Wheels: Buch and Dalbec deliver meals for 25 years

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

Every Monday morning, two familiar faces stroll into the Delano Senior Center.

Together, they carry a cooler of 10 to 20 packaged meals. The act of giving has been a routinely-scheduled aspect of Mary Buch and Dorothy Dalbec’s lives as they have been delivering ‘Meals on Wheels’ to those in need for the past 25 years.

The two 85-year-old ladies have known each other since their teen years, but their friendship blossomed when they both volunteered to partake in Meals on Wheels.

Dalbec grew up on a farm four- and-a-half miles outside Delano. She attended St. Peter’s Catholic School and Delano Public Schools.

After marrying her husband at the age of 20, she traveled around the country to be with him, as he was drafted for World War II.

Dalbec had two baby boys, and now, her family has grown quite large with five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

When her husband passed away, Dalbec undertook many projects close to her heart. She worked as a cook in St. Peter’s School cafeteria. She also worked at the Wright County Government Center and the Delano Post Office. It was at the post office that Dalbec reacquainted with Buch.

Like Dalbec, Buch grew up on a farm and married. After living on the farm for 16 years, she and her husband moved into town to raise the children.

She has five children, (four girls and one boy) 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Later on, her husband also passed away.

When Buch was first employed at the post office, Dalbec had already been there for seven years. Buch knew that her friend was still lonesome after her husband’s death. Feeling the same way, they grew to care for one another,

They were alike in many ways and they shared similar lives. It was Buch who encouraged Dalbec to accompany her while volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

Meals on Wheels is a program that is “designed for people who are inbound and unable to go out and shop for nutritious meals,” said Delano Senior Center Director Gail Sinkel.

Looking at the Meals on Wheels menu, she continued, “The program was actually taken over in 1985 from the Delano nursing home.”

The meals provide one-third of their daily nutrition. A $3 donation is recommended, but no one is denied a meal because he or she cannot afford it.

“The majority get them every day, but we do allow for some flexibility,” Sinkel said.

The meal variety is on a six-week seasonal rotation, and meals could vary from Swiss steak to chicken to chow mein, casseroles, and dessert.

“We have two cooks and two volunteers in the kitchen,” Sinkel said. “It’s actually cooked from scratch. I think that’s what makes the meals so good. The roast beef is hand-sliced and the potatoes are real potatoes. It makes a big difference.”

The program has continued to grow each year, and the Delano Senior Center needed someone to organize it.

“I took over the program, and that’s when I really got to know the drivers,” Sinkel stated.

The communities truly came together in expanding the delivery to people in Rockford, Independence, Franklin Township, Delano, Greenfield, and Loretto.

“We deliver an average of about 28 meals a day, but the program has about 57 volunteer drivers,” Sinkel said.

Buch and Dalbec have made it a priority to deliver meals every Monday for the past 25 years, and still continue to share the same passion and joy for delivering the meals as they have had all the years.

Dalbec noted, “I’ve kept track of most of the names who we’ve delivered food to over the years, and it’s at least 100. There’s a little story behind every one.”

Agreeing, Buch also said, “I would say just about all of them really appreciate it. That’s what makes you want to keep doing it.”

Upon retiring, Buch said, “None of us wanted to retire because we didn’t know what we were going to do at the time. I like to be active. I’m not one to just sit at home. I have to be out there doing something.”

When it comes to the town of Delano, the two are drawn to stay.

“I lived in Delano all my life. It’s just home, and it’s where I’ve always been,” Buch said.

Thinking back, Dalbec said, “There was a time when I knew just about everybody in Delano. You’d go to the grocery store, and you would know just about everybody there.”

“We never had to lock the door because there was nothing to worry about. It was a safe world, and that’s one thing I miss, but I still like the small town atmosphere and I feel very lucky that we are close to the Twin Cities,” Dalbec concluded.

As far as hobbies go, Buch takes a particular liking to reading and volunteering her time. Both Buch and Dalbec used to share a love for dancing when it was more conservative, she said. Dalbec also enjoys knitting, the outdoors, and gardening.

Together, they go out to eat every Monday for lunch. When it comes to cooking, Buch said with a laugh, “It’s more fun to go out to eat.”

The two have grown in their friendship together, but above all, their love for giving to the community has made the two an unmistakable pair.

“You just don’t find that kind of volunteer,” Sinkel said about the pair. “Everybody is busy, so they like to volunteer like once a month or once a year, but not once a week for 25 years. That’s a long time.”

There will be a volunteer recognition Thursday, May 17, and the senior center will be recognizing about 200 volunteers who have put in many hours.

“The whole place couldn’t run without volunteers so we are very lucky to have dedicated volunteers,” Sinkel said.

Buch and Dalbec both said they feel it’s a wonderful program and a comfort to know that it’s there when it’s needed.

“It gives you a good feeling to know that you helped someone, but they always need more volunteers,” Buch said.

If anyone is interested in receiving meals or volunteering their time, contact the senior center office at (763) 972-0574.

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