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Meals on Wheels halted deliveries
Service to begin again after Martin Luther King Jr. holiday
Meals of Wheels program coordinator Milon Christman delivers shelf-stable boxes Thursday to Richard Tam, not pictured, at his home on Park Hill Drive. The service has been limited this week because of icy roads, though Christman said volunteers have called residents to check on them. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Richard Tam was happy when he saw a Meals on Wheels volunteer Thursday.

Tam, a Park Hill Drive resident, can see the cleared road from his home, but his yard is still solid ice.

"I scraped my porch and ramp this morning," he said as he took a box of food. "I'd work on it for four or five minutes and then rest for four or five minutes."

Because of ongoing hazardous ice conditions, the Hall County Meals on Wheels service has been shut down this week. The Cornelia-based caterer can't make the drive and canceled delivery.

"We've been calling all of the clients every day to make sure they're OK," said Milon Christman, the program coordinator at the Gainesville-Hall County Community
Service Center. "I called 49 of our most vulnerable people yesterday and took out a car with four-wheel drive to deliver to a few homes."

The office will also be closed today and Monday, making a 10-day break the longest that Christman can remember in his eight years as a volunteer.

"We're not leaving people in the dark, however," he said. "We're continuing to make the calls."

Tam was one of the few residents who needed help Thursday. But on Wednesday, Christman delivered meals near the Jackson County line, the Newtown neighborhood and Tower Heights Apartments.

"Delivering yesterday was one of the most rewarding days as a volunteer because people were starving to see somebody," he said. "Since Sunday, nobody had been there and thankfully they hadn't ventured out."

Once he got to the homes, Christman said the toughest part was getting out of the car and walking up slick steps, porches or driveways.

"One of the things that amazed me yesterday is that when I delivered to these home-bound residents, I was the first footprints in the yard for three of five homes," he said. "It was really kind of eerie, and they were glad to see somebody."

He handed out shelf-stable boxes, which hold non-perishable foods such as canned chili, crackers, juice, powdered milk and raisins.

"We're always prepared to not deliver for two or three days because our clients have three shelf-stable boxes at home. But this storm exceeded our coverage," Christman said. "I've offered to go to the grocery store for milk and other items, but most people saw this coming and had their family help stock up."

After Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the usual Meals on Wheels service will resume. Christman said he's looking for more volunteers, who can attend open orientation at the Community Service Center at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays.

For Tam, it's about hanging on until the ice clears.

"I call them sea rations," he said while accepting the shelf-stable boxes, recounting his service during the Korean War. "During the cold weather, some of the northern guys would walk to the latrines in their underwear. I still haven't adjusted."

Though Tam moved to Georgia in 1957, he's still used to Hawaii's year-round warm weather.

"Where I come from, you just don't see weather like this," he said with a smile. "When you walk outside these four walls, no matter what time of the year, you can wear a bathing suit."


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