By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Neil Rhodes is looking for a few willing volunteers to help with a once-a-month ministry to low-income elderly residents in Jackson.
During the first week of each month, Rhodes spends a couple hours each day delivering boxes of food to residents in senior living facilities. He’s been doing it for 10 years and delivers as many as 500 boxes each month, according to Deliver Me, the non-profit, nondenominational agency that coordinates the packaging and client list.
In the beginning, Rhodes was a member of a team of four men, including the late Ken Artigues and Pete Foret, both Catholic. Now it’s just Rhodes and C.T. Dexter.
“It started with Kenny Artigues. We went to high school together at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis. He called and talked to me about working for Gleaners, picking extra crops. When I retired in 2007 I started delivering the boxes through Deliver Me,” he said.
He says he still loves the work, but he is slowing down and could use extra hands.
“Deliver Me has been around for quite some time,” said Joyce Ainsworth, one of the service coordinators. “The mission is focused offering supportive services to low-income people older than 65 who live alone at home or in a senior living facility,” she added. The agency offers groceries, help with applying for benefits and utility assistance, eye glasses, hearing tests and hearing aids. They also run a clothing closet and provide blankets, heaters and linens to people who need them.
In addition to the grocery deliveries, Deliver Me works with Mississippi Food Network (MFN) to provide Commodity Supplement Food Program boxes. These are what Rhodes delivers. They include nonperishable items as well as a block of cheese every month.
Rhodes sets a delivery schedule, MFN and Deliver Me pack the boxes and he drives all over town dropping them off. “It’s something I truly enjoy doing, I truly do, and I think other people would like it too,” he said.
On a recent Tuesday morning, Rhodes and Dexter loaded dozens of boxes headed for an apartment complex near St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson. The boxes are large moving boxes full of canned items so the men use a dolly to cart them through the halls. They spend a few minutes visiting with each resident and try to make sure everyone is doing well.
“Neil has been a true blessing to us. A real, true blessing,” said Ainsworth. “He serves on the board and continues to work. “We see real need out there,” said Ainsworth. “Many people just can’t get out to even pick up food or come to our office,” she added.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the effort can call Rhodes at (601) 906-3516 or contact the office at Deliver Me at (601) 354-4646.