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    A “Thank You” is Good Enough

    By Meals on Wheels America
    Vernon Shelton is a native son of Dunn, North Carolina, the largest city in Harnett County, 40 minutes due south of Raleigh, North Carolina. 

    He was welcomed into the world in New York before his family relocated to “The Tar Heel State,” and he’ll be the first to tell you he’s not Carolina-born; he’s Carolina-bred, with all the trimmings of southern charm and an intrinsic desire to serve others.

    It’s clear from spending only a few minutes with Vernon he has a generous spirit, matched only by his long record of service (one he’s reluctant to boast about), his fierce advocacy of the Meals on Wheels mission and his sharp wit.

    For 45 years – the better part of Vernon’s lifetime – he’s volunteered with Meals on Wheels of Wake County as a delivery person. In that time, he married (now 40 years and counting) and raised a son who’s an award-winning North Carolina news anchor. 

    What began as a desire to give back to the community is now an integral commitment to the tempo of his life and food for his soul. 

    At 25, while working at a local drugstore in Dunn, Vernon learned about an organization delivering meals to seniors in the community. His boss and pharmacist, the late Dr. Wembley, volunteered with the agency. It was an easy decision for Vernon to get involved.

    “When I heard about it, my heart was heavy. I decided, ‘You’ve got to do it.’ It’s as simple as that” 

    Vernon’s impulse to jump in – day after day – speaks to his character and the impact Meals on Wheels has on volunteers. 

    For individuals like Vernon, it’s something you feel as much as you do; it’s who he is and has always been: someone deeply concerned about the well-being of others. 

    “I have a knack for people,” Vernon says. “I love people.

    When asked what motivates him after all these years, not surprisingly, it’s the people he’s met along the way. It’s also part of what maintains his own vitality – finding time in his week to make a difference in someone’s life just by saying hello. 

    “The people keep me coming back,” Vernon says. “It gives me my energy to see them doing all right. It’s like getting up and putting your shoes on; you have that urge to come on back. When I go to see my people, I’m ecstatic. They make me young because they have so many things to tell you.”

    Vernon also is incredibly attuned to how vital it is to get others involved in this work. In his own words, no one can do it alone – neither the clients served nor the individuals who show up each day to serve them. 

    “Meals on Wheels, it’s a need,” Vernon says. “We gotta have it. It'll fall if other people don't get involved, like everything else.”

    His deep belief in what the organization stands for is what inspired him to become an official Meals on Wheels driver during the pandemic, getting up at 4 a.m. and arriving at 6 a.m. at the Meals on Wheels Wake County distribution center to ensure meals made it to those who needed them most during an uncertain time. 

    To him, there’s nothing more important than being a blessing to others. And Vernon’s advice to anyone who wants to get involved (and stay involved) as a Meals on Wheels volunteer is to follow your heart. 

    “You gotta do it from your heart. Everything is done from your heart. You gotta do it because you like to help people in any way you can. If you do it for the money, forget it. If you do it for the praise, forget it. I don’t like praise. A thank you is good enough.” 

    “Every day you gotta get up, [even] when it’s cold or when you feel tired or sick – and strive to do it.”



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