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Good deeds, delivered

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October 16, 2011

Every Monday Stephen Olejnik does what many people come to college to avoid doing: deliver food.

The professor emeritus of educational psychology and instructional technology isn't a waiter—or a pizza delivery person—he's a driver for the Meals on Wheels program. His usual route takes him about 90 minutes, during which time he delivers 12 hot and nutritious meals to senior citizens in Athens.

"It makes me feel good. It's that kind of rewarding activity," he said. "I have a feeling that everybody should have good meals. Food is important. It fits into my philosophy—I don't think anybody should ever go hungry. So, from that perspective, I feel the reward for being able to contribute that little bit. It's not really that much; it's only an hour and a half to two hours a week. But it feels like I'm doing something that's meaningful and helpful to seniors."

Meals on Wheels is coordinated by the Athens Community Council on Aging, one of the charities supported by UGA's Campaign for Charities. Once a year, UGA conducts a single fundraiser—the Campaign for Charities—for contributions to United Way organizations, statewide independent agencies and independent federations approved through the State Charitable Contributions Program. UGA contributions assist organizations like Meals on Wheels in enhancing the quality of life for the many who receive their vital services.

Meals on Wheels aims to foster independent living and prevent unnecessary institutionalization of disabled and older adults. All the delivered meals are designed to provide one-third of an adult's daily nutritional requirements. Menus are developed by a registered dietician and prepared according to the nutritional needs of older adults.

"You deliver to these seniors who, for the most part, can get around but aren't able enough to take care of all of their meals," Olejnik said. "They're always very happy to see you."

More than 130 volunteers across Clarke County deliver about 180 meals a day during the week, with 100 extra frozen meals a day to supplement evening and weekend meals for clients in need.

UGA faculty and staff can contribute to Meals on Wheels or any of the other 1,200 worthy organizations through the Campaign for Charities. For 11 years in a row, UGA has been awarded the Governor's Cup for the highest contribution per employee for organizations with at least 9,000 employees. Last year, the UGA community contributed almost $440,000 from more than 2,200 donors. This year, UGA's goal is $435,000, with a target of 25 percent participation.