DOVER — Virginia native Raymond Coston never considered himself an entertainer but since joining the Modern Maturity Center he’s come to make a simple greeting more than a one-note “hi.”
Every morning visitors and members enter the bustling Forrest Avenue facility to the sounds of a harmonica being played by Mr. Coston, the center’s unofficial greeter.
“He’s our ray of sunshine,” said Carol Davis, a Meals on Wheels volunteer.
“He just brightens up everyone’s day.”
Mr. Coston, of Dover, has been a Meals on Wheels volunteer since 2007, and says he lends a hand every chance he gets.
“I like helping people out,” Mr. Coston said. “It makes me feel good and feel blessed. I love it a lot.”
It’s good he likes to help because the center serves more than 650 homebound seniors across the county through the Meals on Wheels program. In central Delaware, the national organization partners with the Modern Maturity Center to target the aging population in need.
Volunteering for Meals on Wheels is a straightforward job, but it takes dedication, a quality Mr. Coston exhibits every day according to his peers.
“Whenever I need him he’s always there,” said Trudy Clay, Meals on Wheels coordinator. “He’s here at 7:30 or at 8 o’clock in the morning every day.
“He stops in and says hi to everyone and always asks if we need help with anything. He’s very sweet.”
The program, which offers its services in all 50 states, has worked with the center since 1973.
Drivers start to arrive in the center’s dining hall as early as 9 a.m. most days. They pick up their meals, stacked in black, thermal delivery bags, and head out by 10 a.m.
Standing ready to help is Mr. Coston. It’s his calling.
“It’s my thing,” he said. “Growing up I always wanted to help people out. Little kids in the neighborhood didn’t have a role model, so I tried to be someone everyone could look up to.”
A self-taught musician, Mr. Coston also enjoys playing his harmonica and guitar just as much as he does helping people out.
“I love it,” Mr. Coston said. “I learned how to play my harmonica about a year ago after I heard some people on the radio playing some Blues songs. That’s what made me want to learn how to play.”
He taught himself how to play the guitar, also a year ago.
“I picked up the guitar because of my love for Jimi Hendrix,” he said.
He’s not the first to be inspired by the American guitarist, singer and songwriter. The musician, who died in 1970, is considered one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music.
Meals on Wheels volunteer Minette Estes said Mr. Coston lifts everyone’s spirits when he walks into the room.
“He’s always so happy,” she said. “He has a joke for everyone. He sings for people and just makes everyone feel great. We all love him.”
When Mr. Coston isn’t busy helping others he’s either playing his instruments, praying or reading the Bible.
“I pray a lot,” he said. “It’s a never-ending cycle for me. I come home, play my harmonica, guitar or sing. I go to sleep and do it all over again the next day.”