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Local volunteer gives back PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

After having grown up in Holyoke and investing so many years in this community, Nelda O’Neal and her husband Dale are finding ways to give back.

Volunteer jobs are keeping this retired couple busy, whether it’s Meals on Wheels, the Melissa Memorial Hospital information desk or the hospital foundation’s annual fundraisers.

Dale’s mom Grace O’Neal inspired the couple to begin volunteering with Meals on Wheels over 20 years ago.

Grace and her sister Sylvia, in her old Chevy car, began delivering meals when the program first began years ago. Nelda said Grace lived to be 94, and she was still volunteering for things like Meals on Wheels at that age.

After her death, Dale and Nelda continued her work, delivering meals in and around Holyoke. Over 20 years later they are still regularly donating their time and car for this government program through the local SunSet View facility.

“There is a need for this,” said Nelda, who has delivered as many as 23 meals in a day, averaging around 12-15 meals each time she volunteers.

She said there are no restrictions on the meals, so anyone can request the home delivery. For a lot of community members, it’s a great way to receive a hot meal during the cold winter months or simply when they can’t leave the house for health reasons.

“Sometimes you are the only one they’ve seen all day,” said Nelda. The lunch deliveries are good opportunities for the volunteers to check on those receiving the meals to make sure they haven’t fallen or need help in some way.

“It’s a nice program, and we always need volunteers.”

One of the volunteers is blind, noted Nelda, but he still finds ways to help and “never makes a mistake!”

“Someone like that, it would be so easy to stay home,” said Nelda, but he likes to give back and can help prepare the food during the delivery route.

When Nelda’s not busy with Meals on Wheels, she donates her time at Melissa Memorial Hospital’s information desk.

“As long as you can walk and talk, they hire you!” said Nelda.

Serving as a volunteer there since the new hospital opened in 2008, Nelda simply helps people when they arrive at the hospital by showing them where to go or assisting with wheelchairs.

Even though it’s only for a couple hours at a time, Nelda loves being able to see people she normally doesn’t get to see.

She noted there is a big need right now for volunteers on the weekends.

Additionally, the Holyoke native helps with Melissa Memorial Hospital Foundation’s annual garage sales. Dale helped out with the construction of the hospital’s new clock tower, and of course the O’Neals stay busy with activities at the Methodist Church and Dragon ball games.