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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Retired Freeman High School teacher has served Meals on Wheels for 43 years

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 10, 2019

Norma Trefry has meal delivery down to a science.

She has detailed notes on her meal delivery roster to help her remember the preferences of everyone on her route and the most efficient way to get to them. She also always has a tray in her car to help carry food to the door.

Trefry was recently recognized by Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels with the longevity prize for 43 years of volunteering for the agency.

She has been delivering meals since before the organization officially incorporated, before Spokane Valley became a city and before many of the neighborhoods and apartments that have sprung up existed.

Trefry, who spent 25 years as a Freeman High School teacher, is one of several drivers at Spokane County who has been delivering meals for decades, and said she’s using her retirement to the fullest.

“If you’re bored in your retirement, you’re doing it wrong,” she said.

Meals on Wheels delivers food to homebound or disabled seniors. The organization started in Spokane Valley with just a few volunteers and a youth group, and has since grown to include the entire county.

Joan Kilian, secretary of the Spokane County Meals on Wheels board, said drivers like Trefry, and herself before she was on the board of the organization, often develop friendships and keep track of the people on their route.

Kilian, who has volunteered for 37 years, said she remembered when a man on her route had left turned on every burner turned on his stove, and she asked the organization to make sure someone was checking in on him. She said the food delivery drivers might be the only person their patrons see in a day.

“We need to watch out for one and other,” she said. “It’s not just a nutritious meal, it’s the personal touch.”

Trefry said she’s asked for help on a patron’s behalf several times because the person could be in danger or living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions. She said that before she had a cellphone, one of the people on her meal route did not answer the door. She went inside to check and found that the resident had had a stroke, and she had to drive somewhere else so she could find a telephone to call for help.

She said the day-to-day meal service is also extremely important for people on the routes.

Trefry has had most routes on the city, and met a variety of people through volunteering. Some people on the route try to avoid talking to anyone, and she said she still knocks on the door once in a while to make sure they are OK. Some clients, however, only have a driver to talk to, and she tries to make time to talk to them and listen to their stories when she can.

“It’s important,” she said. “(They’re) a population that’s often ignored or forgotten.”

Kilian said she and Trefry are two drivers who have been involved in almost every part of the organization since it was founded. But, it always needs more drivers, more volunteers, and seniors themselves need to be aware that this program is available for them.

“There’re so many people that need this service,” she said. “We just need to find them.”

This article was corrected on Dec. 9, 2019 to correct the spelling on Norma Trefry’s name.

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