Jan Melcher connects with Estacada community members through local volunteer programs

PAMPLIN MEDIA PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Jan Melcher briefs a fellow volunteer at the Estacada Community Center about the Meals on Wheels deliveries for the morning.

Jan Melcher estimates she travels 800 miles a month as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and other programs at the Estacada Community Center.

Rather than complaining about the high cost of gas or the mileage on her car, Melcher smiles as she shares the stories of the people she delivers food to each week.

For example, she has one Meals on Wheels client who loves spaghetti.

"(When I take her spaghetti) she's in hog heaven. She has her little dance she does," Melcher says. "The funniest part is, I'll take it in and I have the bag on top of the food and I say, 'Oh, it's navy bean and ham again.'"

Melcher describes how the client's face will fall, only to be delighted again once Melcher reveals the meal is, indeed, spaghetti.

Estacada Community Center General Manager Christina Richartz nominated Melcher as Estacada's 2018 Extraordinary Citizen. Richartz says she appreciates Melcher's dedication and positive attitude.

"She's putting hundreds of miles on her car, and all that time, effort and energy, but she comes back energized every time. (She says) 'Guess what so-and-so said today?' (She) always (has) a tidbit to share with me," Richartz said. "Everyone that drives for Meals on Wheels is completely volunteer. They're not reimbursed. It's incredible what these people do."

In addition to driving for the Community Center's Meals on Wheels program for nearly a decade, Melcher serves as treasurer of the Center's board of directors, meal planner and cook for the Wednesday breakfasts and Saturday dinner dances. Outside of the Community Center, she volunteers at the Eagle Creek Grange, where she is a member of the executive committee, cooks and serves at several events and particularly enjoys the annual Easter egg hunt.

"That's a lot of fun, with all the little tikes coming," she says.

Richartz praises Melcher's knowledge of the Estacada community, affectionately comparing her to Wikipedia.

"The great thing about Jan delivering (for Meals on Wheels) is that she knows these individuals so well," Richartz says. "She knows their likes, their dislikes. (She knows) every route — every tree, every barn, every fence of Estacada. (She knows) every little idiosyncrasy and she's able to share it with us, which enhances our service for them."

Melcher views the Meals on Wheels program as more than just a food service.

"I'm not tooting my own horn, but I think it's very important to have somebody who delivers on a steady basis and takes an interest in them because they're doing kind of an in-home check while they're delivering," Melcher says. "Up at Whispering Pines, if someone doesn't answer their door, I tell them in the office."

When shopping for the Center's meals, Melcher prices each item out and shops at multiple stores to ensure that she finds the most valuable deal.

"The Center works on a shoestring (budget). You can't be flamboyant and spend money they don't have," she says, noting that she sometimes donates food for the Center's events as well.

Melcher enjoys working at a variety of Community Center events.

"I like the Saturday night dinners," she says. "They're all work, but they're fun, too."

Melcher's background in the restaurant industry is useful to her work at the Community Center. In addition to owning the Colton Cafe in the early 1990s, she also worked at Boots and Spurs Restaurant and the Redland Cafe.

"We have a Meals on Wheels recipient who was one of my first customers at Colton Cafe," she adds.

Richartz also praises Melcher for her willingness to assist others when working at the Community Center.

"Since day one, I've just seen Jan pour her heart into things, and it's never, 'Hey, that's not my job.' It's 'How can I help you?' and 'Let me help you with this' and 'Let me show you,'" Richartz says, adding that she appreciates the variety of work Melcher does at the Community Center. When Melcher isn't completing tasks herself, she is often lending her knowledge to other volunteers.

"I have to say, it's very rare that Jan sits. She's always on the go," Richartz says. "It's her work ethic. . .When someone belongs to something, and if they're unable to do one thing, they make up for it in another way."

When Melcher isn't volunteering, she enjoys playing Bunco. She also collects T-shirts from friends who have visited different places and has amassed more than 60 from around the United States and several countries. She refers to this tradition as "travel by T-shirt."

Melcher enjoys the variety of activities she helps out with.

"You reap what you sow, and I've been told I'm going to have a place in heaven, but we'll see when I get there," she says. "Hopefully it's not going to be for awhile."

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