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WFAE's "Finding Joy" explores stories of joy and hope, offering you a bright spot in the news landscape.

'It's what they've done for me': How Meals on Wheels delivered friendship to a man in need

Todd Bowman, left, and Larry Hall became friends through Charlotte's local Meals on Wheels program, run by Nourish Up, formerly known as Loaves and Fishes / Friendship Trays.
Nick de la Canal
Todd Bowman, left, and Larry Hall became friends through Charlotte's local Meals on Wheels program, run by Nourish Up, formerly known as Loaves and Fishes/Friendship Trays.

Mecklenburg County’s Meals on Wheels program has been around since the 1970s, delivering meals to homebound older adults and people who are disabled. But it’s not just a daily meal that the program provides to people in need — it’s also a friend.

Todd Bowman knows this as a volunteer with the local Meals on Wheels, run by Nourish Up, formally known as Loaves and Fishes/Friendship Trays.

Every Wednesday, he steps into the kitchen of a small, brick home in north Charlotte to drop off a microwavable meal to Larry Hall.

On this particular Wednesday, it was pureed chicken, potatoes and green beans, with a biscuit, fruit and a protein shake.

Bowman also checks up on Hall, and notices he has a black eye.

"You running into things again?" Bowman asked.

"I bumped into something," Hall said.

Hall is blind in his right eye. He can’t see well enough to cook or drive, so having someone deliver meals is really important to him.

"I’ve got other foods and all, but this is my main meal," he said.

Bowman began delivering for Meals on Wheels three years ago, after seeing his mother-in-law benefit from the program before she moved to assisted care.

"I decided it was just time to give something back because of how much we got out of it," Bowman said while seated at Hall's dining room table.

Bowman said most people on his route are nice. Some appreciate a quick check in. Others want their food left by the door. But he said Hall always wants a little more company and conversation.

"He’s always been really friendly, and a really good guy," he said.

Over the past year and a half, the two have formed a close friendship built on small acts of kindness.

It started early on, when Hall didn’t come to the door one day when Bowman knocked.

"He was very concerned that I wasn’t here, and that something had happened," Hall said.

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He called Hall to make sure he was OK. He was fine. He had an appointment at the Veterans Affairs office.

Another time, Bowman remembers walking in to see Hall struggling with some electrical circuits in his kitchen.

"His microwave had died, essentially, and he was explaining to me the situation," he recalled. "And I asked him, OK, what’s the solution here? What are you going to do? And he’s like, ‘Well I haven’t quite figured that out yet.’"

Without a microwave, Hall couldn’t heat his food, and he couldn’t drive himself to the store to buy a new one.

"So I came back after finishing with my deliveries that afternoon, and we went to Target and I bought him a new microwave," Bowman said.

"I also got a coffee pot, too," Hall added.

It wasn’t something Bowman had to do, Hall said, but it meant a lot.

"You can imagine, given my condition, what shape I would be in, and he took — " Hall paused, his voice catching.

"Now don’t get emotional on me, Larry," Bowman said after a moment.

"I’m trying," Hall said. "He took enough interest to do something."

Hall doesn’t have family in Charlotte, and the only other folks who stop by are the people he’s hired to help clean his house, deliver groceries and mow his lawn.

So having a friend like Bowman who he can talk and catch up with every week has made him feel grateful. And the two have gone on more shopping sprees. Bowman and his wife later took Hall to buy some new clothes, and he met Bowman’s kids over the holidays.

"It’s what they’ve done for me — that they didn’t have to do," Hall said.

Even if Bowman one day stops volunteering, though he has no plans to, he’s certain they would stay in touch. They were brought together by kindness — the kind that sticks.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal