Since Jim Gubluff retired in 1998, he volunteered to deliver Meals on Wheels at least twice a week to his Hastings neighbors. When he had heart surgery in 2020 that resulted in a move to an assisted living facility, he worried he would have to quit what he described as the “best job in the world.”
“I thought maybe it was going to be the end of it,” says Jim. “When I don’t do it, I miss it.”
Living alone, Jim had grown accustomed to getting to know his neighbors through his work. Before his nearly 25 years of volunteering for Meals on Wheels, he spent his career doing service calls for the local gas company, a job that brought him to Hastings early in his career.
“When I first started volunteering they’d say ‘What are you doing here, Jim? Nothing is broken!’”
As Jim was recuperating from his surgery, little did he know that one of his fellow volunteers was scheming up a plan that would allow him to continue doing what he loved so much.
‘He was so excited to get back to it’
“I have a friend who was on Jim’s route for years and years, and always asks about Jim,” says Fay Wallin. “I knew that Jim couldn’t get out, and that bothered him a lot.”
“It’s being with the people that I love about it,” Jim says. “I enjoy it. It gets me out.”
Having met Jim 12 years ago delivering routes on Fridays with a group they came to know as “Friday Friends,” Fay worked with Sue Hill and Joannie Becker who coordinate the Hastings Family Service Meals on Wheels program to see what could be done. Once Jim recovered from his surgery in his new home, which happens to adjoin the Meals on Wheels site at Regina Hospital, Fay said she would like to take Jim out twice a month for deliveries.
“He was so excited to get back to it,” recalls Fay.
Jim has recovered well from his surgery, but his mobility isn’t what it used to be so he is glad that Fay continues to accompany him on his volunteer route. “Walking isn’t too good for me anymore, and I don’t know if that will come back around. Fay does the walking and the deliveries and I do the driving.”
‘They become like your family’
While they’ve been doing contactless deliveries during the pandemic, Fay says all the recipients are sure to ask about Jim and give him a wave out the window if they are able.
“Mary is just so appreciative and she’ll ask, ‘How’s your driver today?’” says Fay of one of their regular recipients (whose name has been changed to protect her identity). “Those friendships last and they become your family.”
Sue, who helps coordinate the program, says that people like Fay and Jim are what make Meals on Wheels special and an indispensable resource to the community.
“Our caregivers are so appreciative of what they do,” she says. “They both have let us know over the years if something isn’t right with a recipient so we can have someone check on them.”