BRIGHAM CITY -- Every morning, Carl Reichard heads over to the Brigham City Senior Center to have a cup of coffee and chat with the guys. Some days, he goes right home and spends the rest of the day with Revena, his wife of 56 years. But as often as three days a week, he fills in as a driver for the center's Meals on Wheels program.
Reichard, 79, has survived a heart attack and a stage four cancer diagnosis that took parts of his stomach, pancreas and his spleen. Still, he walks to the door of a home on his route with a youthful spring in his step and a smile on his face for the person inside.
He has a clipboard with names, addresses and special dietary information, but after five years, Reichard knows each person on every route in Brigham City and surrounding communities.
Reichard started delivering Meals on Wheels five years ago because he needed something to do with his time. He could have had his own route, but he prefers to be a substitute because it gives him the ability to meet more people.
"I think I get more out of it than they do," he said.
Meals on Wheels is part of a program that provides meals to qualifying seniors. Every day, cooks start preparing lunches at 7 a.m. to feed anywhere from 50 to 200 seniors at the senior center and another 125 meals to be delivered to the homes of seniors who can't get to the senior center.
The senior center relies on volunteers to get these meals out each day. According to Rocheal Redford, the volunteer coordinator for the senior center, between 250 and 280 volunteers gave 111,536 hours of their time in the last year. Of those, 85 are regular drivers who cover 17 routes for Meals on Wheels Delivery and 30 are drivers like Reichard who are on stand-by as substitute drivers.
Loni Sehrgosha, of Brigham City, is a senior center volunteer who found herself on the receiving end of those lunchtime deliveries. A month ago, the 72-year-old Sehrgosha, who lives alone, fell and broke a bone in her shoulder.
"It has been really humbling to find yourself on the receiving end of things, but it has been a real blessing," she said.
On this day, Reichard has just delivered her daily meal: chicken salad served on a slice of cantaloupe, a bag of fresh vegetables with a thick ranch dip, a fresh-baked blueberry muffin, an oatmeal-raisin cookie and a carton of milk.
While Sehrgosha cannot prepare her own meals right now, she said the daily delivery is about more than just the food.
"It is the kindness and the friendship," she said. "You feel like an individual, not just a number on their route. (Reichard) is one of those little rays of sunshine whose smile never goes away."
A few blocks away, Reichard pulled up in front of Judy Olsen's home. Her little Maltese puppy tried to put some bravado in his bark when Reichard arrived.
Olsen worked for the IRS for 25 years before taking a medical retirement in 1990. She started receiving Meals on Wheels after her daughter came from Nevada to visit one year.
"I told her we could have peanut butter sandwiches or we could go out to get something," Olsen said.
After that visit, Olsen's daughters got her mother set up for delivery. Meals come for lunch Monday through Friday, but Olsen said she is often able to split the meals into lunch and supper.
At each home on the route, Reichard knows the drill. One home belongs to an elderly woman who is often asleep when he arrives with lunch, so he just steps inside and calls her name so that he knows she is there, and he leaves lunch in her fridge.
At each stop, he offers a brief hello, then leaves as quickly as he arrived. But sometimes, the Meals on Wheels delivery is the only contact these people have outside of the home.
"One lady said I was the only person she talked to and wouldn't let me go until we had talked for about 15 minutes," Reichard said. "So I saved her for last so I would have time to talk with her."
On occasion, Reichard and the other drivers might bring lunch to a home and there is no response when they knock on the door. Sometimes the homeowner just forgot about lunch and went to town. But sometimes, Meals on Wheels drivers are the salvation of the people they serve.
"One lady didn't come to the door, but I could hear her talking," said Reichard. "When I checked in the window, I could see her lying on the floor, so I called 911, and I called her daughter."
The senior center has steps in place to follow up on the welfare of each person on the list. If a person is not at home, Reichard said, the meal cannot be left on the table or in the fridge. Instead, that meal goes back to the senior center and someone will call and make sure everything is OK.