It’s not unusual for senior adults to volunteer with Meals on Wheels, but what is amazing is that volunteer Meldra Panchelli celebrated her 100th birthday July 2.
Not only does she help feed people, she continues to serve at First Baptist Church Milledgeville, Georgia, as well as numerous centers in the city.
No one in her family has ever lived this long, so Panchelli didn’t expect to either. But each day is special, she said, and she is grateful to wake up each morning and thanks God she is able to still serve.
Hundreds of hours
Since 1974, Panchelli has volunteered hundreds of hours, especially at the hospital in Milledgeville.
However, her volunteerism didn’t begin in 1974.
This centenarian has been helping people deal with health and other problems, sometimes just listening and being their friend, all her life.
First, she volunteered at the Baldwin County Hospital (renamed several times), today known as Atrium Health Navicent Baldwin.
For the last 12 years, she has been an active volunteer at Harriet’s Closet, supporting women recovering from breast cancer. Panchelli understands their needs because she is a 60-year cancer survivor herself.
Love and support
The Milledgeville Union-Recorder reported that Panchelli started working with cancer patients in the mid-1970s.
It was there she helped with the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery Program.
“I liked it because I could help people who had had breast cancer,” Panchelli said.
“I tried to help them understand that they could live like I had lived having had breast cancer.”
As she has been there herself, she helps breast cancer patients obtain items they need to feel more comfortable. Each patient also receives her love and support.
Panchelli tells the patients it is important to remain positive when battling cancer and to surround themselves with positive people. Having a deep faith in God is a big part of her life she shares with others.
Besides volunteering at the hospital, she is involved in other projects.
Still driving her car with a driver’s license valid through 2027, she delivers Meals on Wheels to her fellow senior citizens who are unable to purchase and prepare their own meals. She also checks on the seniors and brings a smile with each delivery.
As a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Panchelli has helped build 18 houses in Baldwin County. Her job wasn’t easy — she was the one who crawled under houses and put in insulation.
Advice to others
Stay active, Panchelli tells seniors. As quoted in The Union-Recorder, she said, “I believe the secret to longevity is to not sit around and feel sorry for yourself.”
Instead, she believes wholeheartedly that seniors should work and do things for as long as they can. In 1954, Panchelli joined FBC Milledgeville, where she has assumed various teaching and ministry roles.
“Stay active every day. Being a couch potato is not the way to live your life.” Twice a widow, Panchelli keeps her own house and loves to garden.
And if she wakes in the night and can’t sleep, there is always a book on her nightstand — her Bible and probably a mystery novel.