Senior Americans who spend their time primarily at home can become vulnerable to loneliness and isolation and sometimes need a helping hand just to make it through the day.
Many older Americans rely on meal delivery programs like Meals on Wheels to ensure they are able to eat warm, nutritious meals every day.
Most of the meals are delivered by volunteers, who use the daily delivery appointment as an opportunity to check in on home-bound seniors and make sure everybody is doing OK.
Meals on Wheels is paid for in part by federal funding and makes up the difference in cost through donations. Seniors are not asked to pay for their meals — they may donate if they would like, but will receive meals regardless of their donation history.
Recently, an elderly couple in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was scammed by a man who deceived them into believing they owed money for their Meals on Wheels deliveries.
WQOW-TV reported that on May 8, the couple received their Meals on Wheels delivery from a volunteer driver as normal. But about ten minutes later, an unidentified man showed up on their doorstep and said he needed a cash payment for the meals.
The woman, not entirely confident of the program’s payment structure, gave the man $20 dollars.
She later called the local Aging and Disability Resource Center to ask about the payment, and that is when she learned that her vulnerable family had been scammed.
The ADRC staff called police on behalf of the couple to report the fraud. According to police, there is no information on a suspect so far.
The amount may not be particularly large, but the offense is one that police are taking very seriously.
“They clearly had the intent to defraud these individuals,” said Bridget Coit, spokeswoman for the Eau Claire Police Department.
“Meals on Wheels does not ask for payment, they do not bill for their services, they simply mail out a letter and ask for donations,” Coit said.
“So the individual who was doing this clearly was trying to take advantage of individuals who are vulnerable,” she concluded.
After hearing about the couple’s story, an anonymous stranger decided to restore a little faith to the community and to the hearts of the couple who had been deceived.
The unidentified person contacted the police and asked if they could help right the wrong. The police department posted about the act of kindness on Facebook, and it has since gone viral.
“Update to Meals on Wheels Scam from last week!” the department wrote. “We weren’t going to share, but we were so moved we had to:
“After hearing about how an elderly homebound couple was defrauded last week, an anonymous person reached out and asked if they could repay what the couple lost.
“Today, that amazing citizen dropped off an envelope at the ECPD, with the amount lost + some. They were sickened by the fraud to the couple and stated, ‘We are better than this in Eau Claire.’ Indeed we are!
“Here is their note. We will make sure the gift gets to the victims.”
“Those of us in Eau Claire want you to know we treasure our community members and wish you the very best!” the note read. “Have a great day!”
The warm, selfless gesture has left the Eau Claire community feeling encouraged, knowing neighbors are determined to triumph over evil with love.