116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
COVID-19 motivates man to volunteer
Matt Calman pays it forward by volunteering with Meals on Wheels
Mar. 15, 2023 6:00 am
During the high point of the COVID-19 pandemic, Matt Calman was confronted by the thousands of miles between himself and his elderly parents. With everything on lockdown, he was unable to travel from Iowa to his dad in Florida or his mom in North Carolina, to give them the care and comfort they needed. He and his family found security in the help of local caregivers who wanted to lend a hand and a smile, even if they were basically strangers. This outpouring of support inspired Calman. To thank the people who helped his parents thousands of miles away, he now drives thousands of miles a year for Horizons Meals on Wheels.
“It’s my COVID transformation story,” says Calman. “It brought out this desire in myself to help elderly people in my area. It just clicked.” At the high point of the pandemic, the Meals on Wheels program was operating at reduced capacity. In order to avoid contact between delivery drivers and meal recipients, only frozen meals were provided. When Horizons announced their intent to restart hot lunch service on June 1, 2021, Calman realized he had found his opportunity to help elderly people.
“They did a news story on KCRG and said they needed 35 drivers next week,” says Calman. He thought, “Well, I could do that!”
The Meals on Wheels program doesn’t take a big time commitment — routes are generally about 10 miles and take about an hour to complete. Volunteers who enjoy the experience can take on additional routes or shifts, or look into additional ways to serve the Horizons mission. Calman now delivers breakfast and lunch three days a week, and he is recognized for spending a little extra time with his clients and figuring out how the program can serve them better.
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When Horizons rolled out its Mobile Meals app for volunteers and paid drivers, Calman was one of the earliest adopters. While using the app to coordinate delivery routes and make notes on individual clients, he also took to documenting the bugs and potential improvements that are common in new software. “Matt input meticulous comments every day that strengthened the program and our ability to serve our clients,” says Amanda Bittorf, marketing and grants manager at Horizons. As a fill-in driver, Calman notes that the app’s automatic GPS makes picking up unfamiliar routes much easier. He also appreciates the ability to submit notes on client care needs.
The care Calman provides to Meals on Wheels clients doesn’t stop at just a hot meal. He’s known to go above and beyond simply by paying attention and taking notice.
“Even before use of the app commenced, he alerted the care coordinator immediately when a client had no heat in their building on one of our chilly Iowa winter days,” said Bittorf. “With the consent of the client, (the coordinator) was able to call the landlord and the issue was resolved that afternoon.”
To Calman, that was all part of the plan.
“Volunteering is a gateway to getting to do bigger, more helpful things like that,” he said. “Doing the routes helps me get to know people, and you develop a trusting relationship with them. Then they’ll tell you there’s a problem, and then you’re there to help.”
On volunteering, Calman offers this advice: “Great intentions are great, and making donations is wonderful, but giving the gift of your time and your personal care for someone else is immeasurable. Meals on Wheels makes that easy because you can just take one route a week, one hour a week, and it’s super easy and fun. In terms of the healing that it offers you, too, it’s immeasurable.”