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posted: 1/31/2014 5:00 AM

Editorial: Volunteerism at any level is valuable

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  • Des Plaines resident and Meals on Wheels driver Samuel Grimes, 88, waits in the doorway of a Des Plaines apartment complex for a client to show up for a hot lunch.

      Des Plaines resident and Meals on Wheels driver Samuel Grimes, 88, waits in the doorway of a Des Plaines apartment complex for a client to show up for a hot lunch.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Samuel Grimes should stand as an inspiration to us all.

The Des Plaines resident -- at 88 years old -- has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels for 20 years, the last three based at the Arlington Heights Senior Center. He rises at 5:30, gets to the center by 7:30, packages up food for three dozen clients and then drives to visit each of them -- many far younger than he -- to deliver a well-balanced meal.

Five days a week.

For a story in Tuesday's paper, staff writer Christopher Placek and photographer Mark Welsh tagged along with Grimes Monday, during what Grimes recalled was the coldest day that he's delivered in the last four or five years.

The lanky octogenarian moves at a brisk pace up driveways and sidewalks, much faster than you'd expect of someone his age or 20 years his junior. His mission clearly keeps him young.

Grimes does much more than deliver meals, though. For some, he's the only regular connection to the outside world. Most of his clients are isolated by age or infirmity. They can't leave the house or, in some cases, prepare their meals.

They worry when he's running behind schedule, even if it's 15 minutes -- not for themselves, he says, but for him.

Penny Jaworski uses a wheelchair and a walker. She can't stand long, so it's difficult to make her own meals. "He's just so friendly," she said of Grimes. "Just a delightful guy to come visit you every day."

Grimes is paid in smiles. And what an enriching way to spend his golden years.

Grimes may never fully know the importance of what he does. He views his volunteerism as something that keeps him going.

"If I wasn't doing this, I don't know what I would do," he told us.

Not everyone has the time, passion or generosity that Grimes has. There may not be many 88-year-olds who do what he does, but there are legions of suburbanites who are every bit as committed to helping their fellow man as he. Some just go about it in different ways. And with varying levels of intensity.

All volunteerism -- whatever you're able to commit to -- has value, especially at times like these when the most vulnerable of us is at his most vulnerable.

Whether you create the meals that people like Grimes delivers, help out at your local homeless shelter, clean up or hand out food and supplies in tornado-ravaged towns, or organize food and coat drives, you make your mark.

It can be as easy as checking in regularly with your elderly neighbors to make sure their home is at a livable temperature and they have food in the larder. Or as useful as sending your strapping teenager over to the neighbor's house to shovel.

Look at Grimes and you can see that volunteerism is good for you.

As Abraham Lincoln said: "To ease another's heartache is to forget one's own."

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