On a recent Saturday morning as I strolled away from ninety-three year old Naomi Armstrong’s cottage with a potted orchid in hand, I had a true sense of what Meals on Wheels of Greenville County does for nearly 1500 Greenville County residents each day. As a long-standing board member and volunteer for the organization, my passion was reignited after my visit with Naomi and her son, Barry.
Naomi is clearly never at a loss for words. And over my two-hour visit she shared the stories of her life. As lifelong residents of Greer (History of Greer, SC), Odie and Naomi worked long into their eighties. For nearly 40 years, Naomi worked in the textile industry. Learn about the History of SC Mills. She described to me the intimate details of her jobs as a quality control inspector at Norris Shirt Factory and later as a yarn winder at JP Stevens. Eventually she was pushed out by technology, but that didn’t slow her down.
For many years Odie and Naomi ran Armstrong Taxi Service in Greer and later they worked together cleaning offices and maintaining yards for “older folks.” “My Dad was still up on roofs cleaning gutters into his 80’s. And Mom was driving the mower up until a couple of years ago,” shared Barry. Naomi chucked, “Most folks were surprised to see a woman doing yard work, but I didn’t care. I loved being outside and gardening…and of course, being with Odie.” This wonderful couple had a long and loving relationship until Odie’s passing a number of years ago at age 85.
So where does Meals on Wheels of Greenville County fit into Naomi’s story? Two years ago, Barry moved his mom into a small, renovated cottage behind his home in downtown Greenville. His goal for this living arrangement was to allow Naomi her independence while keeping her close by to ensure her health and safety. After getting her settled, Barry reached out to determine whether his mom would be eligible to receive Meals on Wheels.
The mission of Meals On Wheels is to enhance the lives of homebound individuals by providing nutritious meals, personal contact and related services to seniors throughout Greenville County. Since 1968, the organization has grown to a fleet of more than 2,000 individual, group and corporate volunteers delivering meals daily throughout the County, including Fountain Inn, Fork Shoals, Simpsonville, Mauldin, Travelers Rest and Piedmont.
In addition to the meals, these dedicated volunteers provide the human touch that means so much to homebound people, just like Naomi.
“At Mom’s age, most all of her friends and family are gone,” says Barry. “Mom thinks of the volunteers as her friends. She looks forward to their arrival each day.”
While Naomi likes the food, especially the fruit and vegetables, she said, “Good gracious, the best part about Meals On Wheels is the people.” Never having met a stranger, Naomi always invites the volunteers to sit and chat. “In the warm weather we sit out on my porch…and I might just talk too much,” she laughs. And while she didn’t remember all of the volunteers by name, she described each in detail. If you are lucky enough to deliver a meal to Naomi, you may even receive some of her homemade blackberry jam or, as in my case, a beautiful potted plant…full of love. Hers is just one story in 1500 – each of them deserves to be heard. Thank you to Meals on Wheels Greenville County for enriching the lives of so many.
For more information about Meals On Wheels Greenville County, please visit www.mealsonwheelsgreenville.org or call 864-233-6565.