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Keeping the meals rolling along

Story by Roger Watson

When Meal on Wheels Director Frank Lacey needs someone to fill in on a route, all he has to do is tell his phone, “Hey,” and Patsy Pelland is typically good to go.

“I type in ‘Hey’, and then automatically at the top it goes, ‘Hey Patsy, can you drive today?’” Lacey said. The automatic phone response comes from the frequency Lacey has called on Pelland to fill in since the pandemic began in March.

“Our texting is pretty direct,” Pelland said. “We don’t have to say a lot, just yes or no.”

Pelland has been doing Meal on Wheels since she retired from the Virginia Cooperative Extension 10 years ago.

“I started just as a sub and was actually a sub for a huge amount of the time because I traveled, and so I didn’t want to take a regular route and then once a month them having to find a sub for me,” Pelland said.

The Richmond native has been in Farmville since 1982. She worked with the Cooperative Extension service for 30 years. She currently works what she calls “very, very, very part time” with Longwood University in the Speech, Hearing and Learning Services building.

She said the good thing about being a regular sub was the ability to take routes when people were out for long periods of time. Then came the pandemic.

“Since the pandemic started and her and her husband can’t travel the way they usually do, she has been doing two routes regularly, and she helps me other days in case I need help,” Lacey said.

Pelland didn’t just travel to New York or Florida before the pandemic. She went on big trips. Her two favorite destinations have been New Zealand and Ireland.

“I love to travel. I try to go as many places as I can,” she said. “New Zealand is the most beautiful place you can ever imagine.”

But since the pandemic hit, Pelland has been grounded and looking for things to fill her time. That’s when the Meals on Wheels super sub became an almost daily fixture on the meal routes.

“Frank was calling me almost every day,” Pelland said. “After about two weeks of that, I said, ‘Frank, why don’t you tell me where you really need me, and I’ll just do that.’”

Pelland drives a route in Meherrin on Tuesdays and then delivers in the Green Bay area on Fridays while still filling in from time to time on other days.

She said she never thought about not delivering meals during the pandemic.

“I’m healthy, and I have the time. Actually, it was a bright spot in the week to be able to get in the car and go do something,” she said. “At the beginning (of the pandemic) when people were really just sort of staying home and not doing anything, I would be like, ‘Woo-hoo! It’s Tuesday. I get to go and do meals.’”

Pelland said she sometimes chats with some clients through the door and others want her to just leave the meals outside. She said the daily deliveries help provide a check on the area’s seniors, and meal delivery drivers can sometimes tell when things don’t seem right.

The routes take Pelland about two hours per day. She delivers around 10 meals per day.

“I think a lot of people, unfortunately, don’t realize that it’s available to them,” Pelland said. “It’s a really good service.

“It’s good for me. I enjoy it. I like getting out and seeing the people and meeting them and checking in on them, and I think it’s good for them to have somebody come to the door and talk to them every day.”

Pelland said the group of volunteers who deliver meals on a daily basis are part of what keeps her going.

“Meals has a great group of volunteers,” she said. “It restores your faith in people that there are a lot of good people out there doing this.”