Throughout winter’s street-clogging swirl, Keegan Smith was there for Tabitha Meals on Wheels and its clients.
“Every time we called him, he came … We are so thankful to have Keegan,” an executive with the nonprofit says of their fearless volunteer.
For Keegan Smith, 22, it is, quite simply, “a blessing to be a blessing.” A senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he has been delivering meals for Lincoln-based Tabitha Meals on Wheels since his sophomore year.
Rachel Peterson, a peer mentor in Keegan’s UNL learning community, introduced him to the opportunity.
“She took me along and showed me the way,” Keegan says. When she graduated, he continued to make weekly deliveries.
Tabitha Meals on Wheels serves 500 people (both seniors and young adults with developmental disabilities) daily. The program, supported by a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska and part of Tabitha’s comprehensive elder care continuum, relies on 1,200 volunteers annually.
“Volunteers are critical to Tabitha Meals on Wheels,” says Michaela Johanns Young, executive director of the Tabitha Foundation at Tabitha Health. “Not only are volunteers providing that hot, nutritious meal, they’re also providing a safety check. Our volunteers have found people who have fallen or have other health needs that we’ve been able to address.”
Smith makes the rounds on Sunday mornings, a commitment of about two hours a week. He often enlists friends to help. (It’s easier that way – one person navigates, one person drives.) They typically make 10 to 15 stops per route, delivering food and a smile.
“It’s amazing how thankful they are to see you,” Smith says.
In turn, he says he is reminded to be grateful himself – for all that he has and for those who have served him: “My ‘why,’ if you will, is that someone loved and served me first. And, I believe that’s Jesus Christ. … I’ve been blessed to grow up with parents who taught me about Jesus at a young age.”
Smith’s vibrant call to serve extends beyond community – to country. After graduating in May, the ROTC cadet will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. From there, it’s on to Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia followed by a tour of duty in South Korea. “It’ll be a big change. I’ve never been outside the United States,” he says.
As Smith works toward becoming a transportation officer, he has an even greater appreciation for what Tabitha Meals on Wheels does every day: “Their supply chain management, their logistics and the organization that they’ve set up to do that efficiently is pretty amazing.”
In addition to giving time and effort to Tabitha Meals on Wheels, Smith makes a monthly donation. He credits his dad with teaching him how to be smart with money: “I’m passionate about using that for good.”
Coupled with his service, he knows he’s impacting others – and enriching himself.
“In a way, delivering these meals is selfish because it brings me joy. It fills me up so I can continue on with my week,” he says. “Consistently volunteering has shaped me to become a better leader in the Army and in the classroom; more service-oriented all-around. It sets you on the path to what really matters – and that’s to serve and love people.”