A Keene woman recognized as “the biggest heart with legs,” was honored Monday as the Meals-on-Wheels of Ellis and Johnson Counties volunteer of the year.
Melba Bower was presented with the Shirle Ayers Volunteer of the Year Appreciation Award in ceremonies at the MOW headquarters in Cleburne.
“This is quite an honor and a surprise,” Bower said.
Bower has been delivering meals every Monday for nine years, since starting with her late husband, and other days when called to fill in for another driver.
“My late husband and I were retired and wanted to do something that would help others,” Bower said. “I enjoy meeting people and helping people.”
MOW executive director Vinsen Faris made the presentation.
“She is everything,” Faris said. “What does she ever say no to. Too many people have learned that she won't say no. She is one of the biggest hearts with legs that I know.”
Bower is the poster lady for MOW volunteers, Faris said.
“The world would be a better place if there were more people like Melba,” he said.
Bower also volunteers for the Keene Chamber of Commerce, her church and other organizations, Faris said.
The annual value of volunteers to America's organizations is $171 billion, Faris said.
There are 5,000 MOW programs in the United States with “an army of more than 2.2 million volunteers,” Faris said.
Nationwide, MOW delivers more than 1 million meals a day, Faris said.
The MOW Volunteer of the Year Award is named in memory of Shirle Ayres, a person who was very dedicated to helping people, Faris said.
“Meals on Wheels is all about community,” Faris said. “It's people helping people and neighbor helping neighbor. The number of hours and the number of meals are just numbers. What it's about is people and Melba represents the best of our people, our volunteers.
“I do this because the Lord gives the desire and the good health to serve,” Bower said. “I really do enjoy delivering my meals on wheels.”
Bowers likes to bake and sometimes would prepare brownies to give to people on her route.
“I gave a brownie to one lady who was new on my route and she really thanked me for it,” Bowers said. “The next week I had cake left over from a church function, so I wrapped it and gave pieces to those on my route. As she approached the front steps of the lady's house, the lady opened the front door and said to someone inside the house, ‘Here's the lady who always brings me something special.'
“Thereafter, I had to beg, borrow or steal something to bring her,” Bower said.
One day as she was walking out the door, Bower remembered she didn't have anything for the lady.
“I looked in the kitchen and there was a banana on the table,” she said. “So I took it to her and she loved it.”
Readers interested in serving as volunteer drivers or who know of someone who could benefit from Meals-on-Wheels' services, should contact the Meals-on-Wheels offices at 817-558-2840.