The Athens Review
There’s at least one 81-year-old Athens man who focuses mainly on one thing for fun. That’s his job.
Herman Rogers is a driver for Meals on Wheels, with a route he travels for more than 100 miles every day of the week, from Monday through Thursday.
“It’s just something I like to do,” said Rogers. “I get along with all the people that I deliver to. I can knock on the door, walk in, and if they aren’t there, I can put their meals on the table. If they need trash taken out, I take their trash out. Or I go and get their mail and bring it in.”
Rogers usually delivers food daily to about 30 households. Most are senior citizens who are physically impaired, and probably would not be able to eat, if not for the efforts of Meals on Wheels drivers such as Rogers.
Rogers was once a maintenance and refrigeration man at Supreme Beef Packing House in Dallas. He and his wife moved to Athens in 1996, to get closer to his son who lives in Athens, and to get closer to Malakoff, his childhood home.
“They (Meals on Wheels) wanted someone to work part-time, and I was asked if I would be interested,” Rogers said. “I filled out an application. I worked one day part time, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Since then, his wife Elizabeth Arnold Rogers, has passed away, and Herman Rogers has continued the tradition. In October, it will total 18 years of service at Meals on Wheels.
“The college had the Meals on Wheels program here in Athens, then Tyler Meals on Wheels took it over,” he said.
Currently, the delivery man lives near his son, Michael Rogers, in Athens.
“I get there at the Senior Center at about 3 a.m., cook my breakfast out there, and get everything ready to go,” he said. “I shoot pool with some of the other guys until about 8 a.m. They’ve also got domino games going.”
Rogers said one of the many reasons he loves his deliveries is because many of the people on his route simply have no one else.
“Most are in their homes, unable to do anything else,” he said. “Sometimes, I’m the only one they see all day. It’s more for me than just delivering food. I visit with them as much as I can, and if they need the mail checked, I do it.”
Rogers said no one is left from the route he had 18 years ago, when he began working the route, because “people pass away.”
“It happens all the time on my route,” he said.
The route tends to be his entire life.
“That’s all I do,” he said. “When I get through with them, I come home, take my shoes off, get in the recliner, watch TV, take naps or whatever.”
Rogers said his route extends over the Lake Athens area, Sand Flats and other locations. He has only one delivery about 13 miles out on State Highway 19 South.
“If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “And, I can’t just sit down all the time. I know what would happen, if I did that. It’s just fun to see different people. And, I’ve seen a bunch of them. I’ll be 82 in April. I hope I’m still gonna be doing this when I’m 92.”
Site Manager Joyce Navarro said his route is one of the longest of six at the Athens Meals on Wheels.
“He mostly delivers in the county roads and rural areas,” she said. “He puts on a lot of miles.”
Navarro, who has been in her position for the past 3-1/2 years, said it has been a great reward to people who deliver, but she also has experienced rewards through the organization.
“This is wonderful because some of these people who are homebound wouldn’t be able to stay at home without food delivered to them,” she said. “They’d be in a nursing home or some other place, other than home. It’s great for the home-bound.”
She said she is happy that she can help other people.
“I’m retired and I want to give back,” she said.
Navarro retired in 2006 from the Henderson County Tax Assessor/Collectors Office, where she was employed for about 17 years.
The Meals on Wheels website says that the Meals On Wheels Association of America is the oldest and largest national organization composed of and representing local, community-based Senior Nutrition Programs in all 50 U.S. states, as well as the U.S. Territories.
There are about 5,000 local Senior Nutrition Programs in the U.S. These programs provide well over 1 million meals to seniors who need them each day. Some programs serve meals at congregate locations like senior centers and some programs, like that in Athens, deliver meals directly to the homes of seniors whose mobility is limited, and many programs provide both services.
While remarkable, the 1 million meals per day figure underestimates the size and shape of their network and its reach and influence in communities across America. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of seniors who receive meals, there are many thousands of professionals employed at the various local Senior Nutrition Programs across the U.S. More notable than that is the virtual army of 2 million volunteers who also "work" for these programs.
For more information about the Athens Meals on Wheels program, call 903-675-8577.