A group of seniors got a fun surprise when a horse named Taco showed up at their assisted living facility to deliver a buggy full of meals.
The seniors were recipients of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s Meals on Wheels. Home-delivered meals help seniors maintain good health and remain in their own homes. The Meals-on-Wheels program provides a hot, nutritious meal for seniors age 60 and older who are homebound and unable to prepare their own meals.
“We were told to go wait outside for a surprise,” said Harriett Huseby, one of the many individuals who rely on Senior Nutrition services for adequate meals. “No one expected to see a horse and buggy pulling up; it was really something.”
Taco held a steady spot on an Amish farm for 14 years until his retirement four years ago. Now, a little older, but still ready to work, Taco has been dubbed an honorary Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) volunteer, doing what he can to help deliver meals to older adults living in Twin Valley.
“We are so grateful for Taco,” said Amanda Ryan, site coordinator for LSS Senior Nutrition. “His presence has brought so much joy and happiness to the older adults we serve.”
Last summer, the small town of Twin Valley celebrated its 125th anniversary with a parade. After spending all his life in town, Al Heiraas wanted to do something special for his hometown.
“My niece had just bought a horse from an Amish family and I knew he’d be perfect to march alongside in the parade,” Al said. “Taco is a beautiful animal and he was great on display but I could tell he was itching for more.”
Al’s wife, Donna, knew of the perfect job for Taco. As site manager for LSS Senior Nutrition in Twin Valley, she is always looking for drivers to deliver meals to homebound seniors; she thought Taco would be a great addition to the team.
“My husband told me about Taco so I knew he was a special animal,” Donna said. “I had been feeling like the seniors who are homebound were in need of some excitement and change to their daily routine, and I knew bringing Taco around would do that.”
After borrowing a buggy from a neighbor and loading up 15 meals, Al and Taco went on their first delivery run last June.
“I grew up on a farm with lots of horses and sometimes a buggy was our only mode of transportation,” Al said. “Spending time with Taco brought back so many wonderful memories for me.”
Al got to relive his farm days again last month when he helped Taco strap on his buggy for a second time. With help from four other volunteers, Taco and Al successfully delivered 12 meals to unsuspecting seniors.
“Seeing Taco and being able to touch him and talk to him brought me back to a simpler time,” one senior said. “What a unique experience to have a piece of your childhood come back to you.”
“It’s all about the appreciation from the people,” Al said of volunteering. “I feel lucky to be able to bring smiles to their faces and make them happy.” When asked if Taco would continue his volunteer duties next summer, Al simply replied, “God only knows.
Miller is a writer for Lutheran Social Services. This article was also shared with the Twin Valley Times