These days, when I ring the bell or knock on a door of a client, I’m greeted with a smile that tells me this person is genuinely glad to see me. The encounter, no matter how brief, leaves us both with uplifted spirits and a better outlook on the rest of the day.

It wasn’t always that way when I knocked on someone’s door, not when you spent 41 years as the Crime and Public Safety Reporter for WRTV-6, the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis. A visit from me wasn’t likely to bring good news. My job took me to the scenes of more than 2,500 homicides. Every day, my job took me into many neighborhoods across the city.  

My career experiences told me that the underpinnings of hunger and food insecurity were written within the statistics of infant mortality, crime, unemployment, disease, infirmity in old age, and premature death. Hunger and nutrition present significant challenges to our neighbors. I worked for a television station that afforded me a platform to rally the social conscience. I wrestled with the question of how to leverage this resource for public good before deciding upon the idea of a canned food drive.

We approached the Indianapolis Colts with the idea of conducting a food drive prior to a football game at the RCA Dome. They quickly approved. WRTV management supported the idea and heavily promoted the Food Drive during every available ad minute leading up to the game. Organizations and volunteers joined the effort. On a Sunday in December 1984, we reaped a harvest of 61 tons of canned goods. Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut declared the effort to be, “the largest food drive in the history of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana.” The Food Drive channeled the city’s innate spirit of giving. It awakened my own senses to the reality of hunger. It didn’t take long to consume 61 tons of food.

Throughout the years, I did stories highlighting hunger, food banks with empty shelves, and yes, profiles of Meals on Wheels volunteers who braved challenging weather conditions to deliver meals. Fast forward to January 18, 2024, when FOX-59 did a news story profiling my own volunteerism with Meals on Wheels Hamilton County.

As someone who recorded a visual history of Central Indiana each day, I learned the value of taking detailed notes. It carried over into my volunteer service on behalf of Meals on Wheels. Over the past three years, I have driven 9,701 miles across Hamilton County and delivered 4,502 meals to 1,181 clients. I’m just one of many volunteers who deliver each day, food for the body and nutrition for the soul.

Giving strengthens the giver. Volunteerism elevates our senses to the human condition. It gives us the vision we need to look beyond our own circumstances towards the greater challenges of the day. No matter what the age regardless of the circumstance, each person should have a level of support that gives them confidence about their future.

These days, when I ring the bell or knock on the door of a client, I see a glimpse of my own future. I wonder and sometimes worry about the direction my old age and my infirmities will lead me. Should I ever need assistance, I know which door will open for me. And that brings a smile to my face.

Jack Rinehart is a former investigative reporter for WRTV-6, member of the Indiana Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame and a Meals on Wheels of Hamilton County volunteer.