Volunteer Stories
MIFA Volunteers share their experiences

MIFA volunteers come from all around the city each day to serve our Meals on Wheels senior clients. Hear from new timers and regulars, working and retired, young and old! 

Our vision is uniting the community through service and our volunteers help us make that possible. In this blog series, we will share volunteer stories, experiences, and more. If you have a story that you want to share please email hwalker@mifa.org

Jonathan Large Inspires a New Generation to Serve

“To me, it’s all highlights,” says Jonathan Large when asked his favorite part of being a MIFA Meals on Wheels volunteer. A well-known leader in the Memphis area, Jonathan has been an instructor at Memphis University School since 2008, where he teaches American History, helps coach the trap shooting team, and assists with the Civic Service Club. This is where his worlds at MUS and MIFA collide.

Jonathan is known at MIFA for bringing his students with him to volunteer and teaching them by example with his passion and love for his clients and his city. He first introduced his students to Meals on Wheels on a service day at the beginning of the new school year about five years ago. He has a keen sense for understanding how to get his students invested in volunteering and making a positive impact in their community.

He and his students picked up a regular route, Route 46 near MUS in East Memphis. Jonathan comes alone to MIFA at 7 a.m. to pick up the meals and delivers part of the route during his free period before the students join him to finish the route. “Young people like to think strategically” he laughs, explaining that the students like to create a route that is clear, straight, efficient… and passes by the nearby Chick-fil-A for breakfast.

He nurtures the fun of childhood while encouraging his students to build meaningful relationships with the clients. “One of my jobs is to try to get the students interested in how they can help out in the city,” he says. “And obviously MIFA is an enormous important part of that.”

A native Memphian, Jonathan is a dedicated volunteer himself and donates monthly to MIFA. He first delivered meals when a Rhodes College classmate of his, a Bonner Scholar, invited him on her MIFA volunteer routes. He not only fell in love with the program and the people he delivered meals to, but also with the beauty of his home city that he hadn't noticed as much before driving meals routes.

“You just get to go all over the city,” he says. “I don't think people realize how beautiful Memphis is, with a wide variety of architecture and neighborhoods that are kind of isolated from each other. So, part of the joy is just getting into all these different neighborhoods and meeting all these different people and cruising around.”

When the schools close for summer break, Jonathan picks up even more routes, delivering meals most days. Some clients tease him about school starting back. One woman gives him a different Psalm every time he sees her. The program blesses them both.

"We're not just bringing food, but we're also kind of a human lifeline,” Jonathan says. When school was closed in early 2020 and I wasn't really seeing anybody, Meals on Wheels was one of my lifelines.”

Delivering meals in a pandemic offered Jonathan a new perspective. He says, “My feelings of isolation within those months, and then seeing my doing the route as lifting that isolation—it helped me be more sympathetic to some of the clients who don’t have cars and aren’t mobile and aren’t seeing people all the time.”

Jonathan’s kindness and passion for service are inspiring a new generation of servant leaders who will be the future of MIFA and Memphis. He encourages his students to view community work as a privilege rather than an obligation.

“It’s about getting people to realize how much fun it is, and not think of it as an onerous duty or chore,” he says. “A lot of people you bring meals to are so loving and so encouraging—it’s a joy.”

By Bailey Bigger, MIFA Impact & Communications Specialist

If you would like to become a MIFA Meals on Wheels volunteer, contact Angela Scott at ascott@mifa.org or (901) 529-4558.