By Chris Strong, Leadership Seacoast Class of 2004

We knock on the door and enter. We are greeted in almost every home by TV’s blaring, blankets and pillows draped over living room sofas, family photos and memorabilia from a life lived covering walls, medicine bottles lining a coffee table and an expectant face. In some homes, a place setting for one is neatly arranged on the dining room table awaiting our arrival.

On September 11, I was part of Leadership Seacoast’s team participating in United Way’s Day of Caring working with Meals on Wheels in Raymond. We packaged and delivered meals in 100 degree heat. I was reminded that we were not just nourishing bodies-fulfilling mission-but we were filling the hearts and souls of the clients and in doing so, ourselves.

All nonprofits have a mission and mission statement. It is clear they exist to improve the quality of life for their clients and their community. Quite often their profound work extends to those of us who volunteer.  Is this a byproduct of mission?

The behind the scenes efforts of Meals on Wheels is a business. It involves the procurement of healthy foods from a vendor, daily deliveries to a site, check lists, portion control, dietary considerations, and efficient processes by staff and volunteers  packaging and distributing food within a two hour time period to ensure food safety.  But the loving hands that package the meals and deliver them see their efforts beyond a business. They know that quite often the delivery of a meal is the only point of human contact a client may have that day.

With cheerful spirits, laugher, and care, food is measured, scooped, sealed, and bundled for each client. Precise measurements are critical to meet federal nutritional standards and ensure there is enough food for all clients. I heard several times “This is the best job I could ever have.” At first, the statement didn’t resonate. By the end of the day, I understood.

With each visit and interaction, I became more aware that we were checking in and caring for the lives of others in one of the most intimate ways. We were in homes, providing food, inquiring about children, grandchildren, health, pets, or a Red Sox game. The lives of  Meals on Wheels’ staff and volunteers are intertwined with their clients.  As such, I found the mission extending beyond food delivery, but to service and giving of one’s self. A byproduct of mission?

Meals on Wheels feeds the hearts and souls of our neighbors, parents, grandparents, and veterans. These are not scenarios we think about day in and day out unless we are the service provider. I ended my day and carry with me tremendous gratitude and appreciation for the staff and volunteers of all the nonprofits that touch the lives of others. Without them, the world would be under nourished indeed. That is the byproduct of mission. Thought provoking, mind and heart altering impact on anyone who enters the nonprofit experience.

Chris Strong
President, Strong Resource Group