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The Magic of Reading: Roma’s Books and Meals on Wheels deliver brain food

Roma’s Books owner Lynn Fate selects books for each senior enrolled in the Magic of Reading program based on their answers in a questionnaire about their reading preferences.

(ROCKWALL, TX – Nov. 2, 2017) Seniors in Rockwall County are turning over a new page thanks to Roma’s Books and Meals on Wheels.

There are over 180 seniors in Rockwall County who receive daily food and essential human contact from the employees and volunteers at Meals on Wheels. Now, thanks to Roma’s, they can also opt-in to receive mental nourishment too.

Every two weeks, Roma’s owner Lynn Fate selects gently-used books from her store inventory and donates them to MOW for their daily deliveries. But they aren’t just any old books; they are hand-picked by Fate for each senior based on his or her reading preferences. She calls this new program “The Magic of Reading.”

“The key was to send a book they would really enjoy, and give them something to look forward to receiving every other week,” Fate said.

To help her with her book selections, Fate designed a questionnaire that was distributed to the MOW recipients. They simply fill out the form and turn it in at their next MOW delivery. Fate picks up any new forms every other week, goes “shopping” for each person at her bookstore, and then delivers the chosen books back to the MOW office.

“The senior simply signs up once, and we do all the rest,” Fate said. “I keep track of what I’ve sent each person as to not duplicate, and also send along a little survey form with each book so that they can let me know if I am picking books they enjoy.”

For seniors and life-long readers like Katherine Swoveland, the new books have been a source of joy and imagination.

Meals on Wheels recipient Katherine Swoveland enjoys the books delivered to her through The Magic of Reading program.

“It keeps my mind occupied,” Swoveland said.

Swoveland said she enjoys Westerns, Mysteries, books about science and books about American Indians. When asked why she believes in reading, she said “It is a way to find out what is going on from the future to the past.”

Swoveland uses a walker in her home, and a wheelchair outside her house. This means that trips to a library would be rare, if not impossible. According to Meals on Wheels Case Manager Maureen Cook, who primarily oversees the books distribution, this is the norm for many of their senior recipients.

“A lot of them have no way of any transport,” Cook said.

Cook said this is the beauty of Fate’s commitment to choosing the right books for the right person through The Magic of Reading program.

“The way she designed the questionnaire allows us to know what the reader is really wanting,” Cook said. “It’s like going to the section you like in the library.”

Fate said she was inspired to create this program for seniors because she believes that reading can engage your mind in a way that TV just can’t.

“I believe a book can transport our seniors to other places they can no longer go, meeting interesting characters along the way to pass the time,” Fate said. “It’s always important and uplifting to see new places and meet new people to keep our lives interesting. Isn’t it wonderful you can do all that simply by reading a book?”

Meals on Wheels Executive Director Margie VerHagen said for seniors who spend the majority of their time alone, books can provide a much-needed distraction.

“Loneliness and isolation is becoming widespread among the seniors in our community,” VerHagen said. “The daily human contact from volunteers and the Magic of Reading Program helps to lift their spirits and keep them more active and engaged.”

Meals on Wheels Fate Congregate Site Manager Eileen Aldeen said when she delivers new books to the seniors, they are delighted.

“They get so excited – it’s like Christmas,” Aldeen said. “These people love to read, and they have time to read. It keeps them alert, it keeps them learning, it keeps them stimulated.”

Aldeen said she has been surprised at the wide variety of genres the seniors like to read. She has passed out titles in historical fiction, comedy, action, and romance, each perfectly curated to the reader by Fate’s questionnaire.

“My seniors absolutely love it,” Aldeen said.

Fate said the response from the new program has been overwhelmingly positive. She believes this is largely due to the way books are selected to reflect each individual, and she plans to remain committed to this cause even if it occasionally takes her outside of her own book store.

“I have partnered with the Friends of the Library Alcove as a backup source in case I do not have in stock something requested in general,” Fate said. “The County Library came on board as well, issuing me a library card just for the program as yet another backup source.”

Fate said her passion for serving Rockwall County seniors is founded in respect for the community they have created, and recognition of the needs they have now. Eventually, Fate hopes to continue expanding The Magic of Reading program to senior living facilities around Rockwall County.

“They are the very people who built this community, and they are the most often forgotten,” Fate said.

To turn in gently-read books for store credit or shop for your next literary adventure, you can visit Roma’s Books at 555 E Interstate 30, Rockwall.

By Julie Anne Wells, Blue Ribbon News. Photos by Austin Wells. 

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