Meals on Wheels driver delivers food and care

Connie Hanser is the Mirror’s Hometown Hero for April 2023.

For Connie Hanser, life after retirement has revealed a new way to help people.

A former social worker, Hanser has since 2014 delivered food to Federal Way seniors as a Meals on Wheels driver. At first, her route took her house-to-house, but Hanser now delivers once a week to two apartment buildings near Celebration Park.

On average, she carries around a dozen bags per trip, visiting seven or eight apartments.

“I don’t mind at all, because once I’m in the building, I’m in the building,” Hanser said. “It’s not like I have to drive someplace else. So I love the route.”

Meals on Wheels uses a small office space at the community center with a freezer; on Wednesdays, volunteers visit and fill the bags that drivers like Hanser take out to their clients.

Melissa Pallanes, the program manager of Sound Generation’s meals on wheels program, said Hanser has also trained many of their volunteers and guided them on ride-along deliveries. She’s an “unsung hero,” Pallanes said.

“I think they and I look forward to our little visit,” Hanser said.

The visits are about more than just the meals. Hanser makes friends with participants, checking on them and helping them access other resources they might need.

Some clients are more talkative than others, and many can get lonely. One client suffers from constant pain and never leaves her apartment except for doctor visits; Hanser is the only person that client lets in her apartment.

“We can check on people,” she said. “So if I don’t get a regular, for like, two or three weeks in a row, I kind of question that.”

Eighty-eight-year-old Frank Damiano, one of Hanser’s clients, gets meals like cheese omelets and French toast for breakfast, and baked fish for dinner.

Damiano, a retired member of the U.S. Navy who worked in construction, said the consistent deliveries are a chance to catch up with Connie on current events in the country and what’s in the news. She’s a friendly and upbeat force every Thursday morning, he said.

“She’s just a real delightful lady to start a morning breakfast out with,” Damiano said. “She’s real nice. … I suspect that she has a good knack for greeting all the customers that she visits. She undoubtedly would make a great neighbor.”

Hanser spent her career as a social worker with serving elderly and disabled people with aging and long-term care. Meals on Wheels was one of the services she’d set up for people to keep their quality of life higher at home.

She retired in 2013, and though Hanser wasn’t really ready to stop working, she needed a change of pace — something that working directly with the meals program offered.

“I wanted to find something that I would enjoy, and be helpful,” she said. “It gives me the satisfaction of still working with people like I did when I was a social worker. I get my fix that way. And you know, all the people who get meals, I’m so grateful for them, and I love visiting them.”

Federal Way has 85 meals on wheels participants, Pallanes said.

Sound Generations Meals on Wheels is open to King County residents age 60 or older who have difficulty cooking or shopping. For more information, visit