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Husband, wife deliver dedication to Meals on Wheels


To Meals on Wheels in Carroll County, James and Ruby Bollinger are pretty much a package deal -- she oversees the packaging and he delivers the packages to clients.

And it's their double devotion to helping people that has made them a valuable asset to the program.

"Jim and Ruby are a team," said Gail F. Burton of the county's Meals on Wheels chapter. "What they are doing is to help the community, and in that they are exemplary. They give that extra 150 percent. I can really count on them."

The Bollingers, both 71, of New Windsor are employees of the program but have performed services far above staff duties throughout their years of participation, Ms. Burton said.

"They are so dependable," Ms. Burton said. "If they have a scheduled leave and I can't find someone to fill in, they have canceled their leave.

"If drivers are out or volunteers can't come in, I can count on them to hold the system together while I plug in the holes."

Mr. Bollinger, a former driver for Babylon Vault Co., retired in 1983, but immediately went to work making deliveries for Meals on Wheels. Mrs. Bollinger was a cook at the Brethren Service Center for 34 years, retired the same year as her husband, and returned to the Service Center kitchen as a part-time cook.

In 1989 she, too, became a driver for Meals on Wheels, first as a volunteer and later as an employee. She is now site manager of the packaging area at the Brethren Service Center.

The Bollingers are on hand every day to pack and deliver meals for homebound people -- such as the elderly or disabled.

Mrs. Bollinger oversees the volunteers who, in assembly-line fashion, pack two meals -- one hot, one cold -- for distribution.

The food is brought to the Center from Highlandtown, the statewide office and central kitchen facility of Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland Inc.

"OK, let's get sanitized," Mrs. Bollinger, wearing a head covering, said yesterday to volunteers who were taking a break from their work. The volunteers quickly returned to clean off the table where they had been preparing the cold meal package.

"It's a very intricate system of operation here. There are a lot of things that must be done and if something is left out, that means that someone doesn't get fed," Ms. Burton said. "And Ruby is very careful about that."

Mr. Bollinger is equally devoted to his job -- he keeps the Meals on Wheels sign on his personal truck, even when he is not making deliveries.

"It has become part of their lives to promote the program," Ms. Burton said. "And we are open even on holidays -- so Christmas, New Year's, Fourth of July, they are here. That's what I mean about the extra effort."

It's not really an extra effort for a couple of folks who like to keep busy.

"It keeps me out of trouble," said Mr. Bollinger of the program.

"He just wanted to do something extra," Mrs. Bollinger added. "Someone had told him there was an opening for a driver and he filled it."

Mr. Bollinger has often filled in when he was needed, beginning when he left school to help care for his family's farm outside Uniontown.

"My mother passed away and I dropped out in seventh grade," said Mr. Bollinger. "They needed me at home. I've been working for others ever since."

He does manage to relax. But to him relaxation, like retirement, is something he doesn't take lying down.

"We do custom mowing," said Mr. Bollinger proudly, sporting a "Born to Mow" baseball cap. "I worked for 47 years to get here, to where I can mow."

Mrs. Bollinger, a New Windsor native, volunteered in the Boy and Girl Scouts when the couple's children -- Robert James Bollinger, an AT&T; employee, and Barbara Ann Fogel, a buyer for the International Gift Shop at the Brethren Service Center -- were members.

Now, her focus is on people who might need her help.

"I like helping out the people that need the service," said Mrs. Bollinger. "I think he [Mr. Bollinger] enjoys meeting the clients.

"That's the one thing I miss, not being on the road, and that's meeting clients," Mrs. Bollinger said.

While Mrs. Bollinger's presence may be missed on the road, Ms. Burton is glad to have her and her husband just where they are.

"Jim and Ruby have a valuable commitment to the community, at least that's what they say about why [they are working with Meals on Wheels]," said Ms. Burton. "It's a kind of giving something back."

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