Guest Post for bikemore.net by Susan Glenn
On a brisk March morning, Dale Johnson zips through the streets of Hampden on a classic green Bianchi road bike. Stopping on the porch of an insurance agency on Roland Avenue, he opens a cooler and loads up his bike basket and backpack with prepared meals destined for five home-bound Baltimoreans. In minutes, Dale and Meals on 2 Wheels are on the road.
Dale is the driving (or rather not-driving) force behind a small but growing band of volunteers who deliver meals by bicycle throughout Hampden, Waverly, East Baltimore, and soon even in Columbia. A retired geographer and now active volunteer, Dale charts bike-friendly routes through Baltimore streets, back alleys and “bike-likely” suburbs; recruits and guides cycling volunteers; and personally delivers meals twice a week with only the occasional “vehicular time-out” for snow storms.
It all began in September 2012 when Dale was looking for volunteer opportunities. “Meals on Wheels is a great organization and, checking their website, I saw this tiny notice for delivering meals by bikes. But that program had actually kind of died when the previous volunteer leader moved out of state. When I contacted Meals on Wheels about resurrecting the program, they were very enthusiastic.”
So with MOW’s blessing, Dale equipped his bike with a basket and Meals on 2 Wheels signage and hit the streets, delivering food and generating good will from clients, people on the street and in their cars.
“For the folks I deliver to, I may be the only person they see all day or all week. Riding up to their doors, just opens up the conversation. They see you out there on your bike, doing this on a winter day, and they just give you a lot of credit.”
"Take Ms. LaRue, for example. She’s 97 years young and still so sharp and witty. It’s a joy listening to someone with almost a century of life to share. I still smile when I think about her asking me to make sure I tell my wife that she thought I have nice looking legs. At 61, I have to take those compliments when I get them. "
Dale loves the reaction he gets from drivers, too. “I pull up to a stop sign with my bike and Meals on 2 Wheels basket and drivers pull up beside me, roll down their windows, and tell me what a great thing I’m doing. Sometimes they’ll tell me stories about how Meals on Wheels helped their families. And you just feel like you’re out there doing something to help and having a great time doing it.”
From his initial “bike party of one”, Dale has grown the program to six cycling volunteers. And he’s planning new routes and looking for more recruits. As Dale explains, “You can volunteer just once a month, two times a week, or just during fair-weather months—whatever fits your schedule. Most routes only take 30 to 45 minutes, but you can get in a good training ride from your house to the meal pick-up point.”
If you love to cycle and want to help people who truly appreciate your effort, contact Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org or 443-841-4372. Donations of cycling equipment for volunteers are also needed and appreciated.
Meals on Wheels:
Founded in 1960, Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland is a nonprofit organization that enables homebound seniors and disabled individuals to eat well and remain in their own homes in Baltimore City as well as Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Montgomery & Prince George’s counties. In FY 13, a dedicated staff and volunteer core prepared and delivered over 1,000,000 nutritious meals to homebound seniors. www.mealsonwheelsmd.org