EATON — March was the 16th Annual Meals on Wheels Month.
According to Meals on Wheels America, CEO and President Ellie Hollander said, “This March, hundreds of local Meals on Wheels programs will rally their communities to build the support that will enable them to deliver nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks to America’s most at-risk seniors all year long. With the demand for Meals on Wheels increasing along with our country’s senior population, we need to ensure that seniors are not forgotten.”
The annual March for Meals commemorates the historic day in March 1972 when President Nixon signed into law a measure that amended the Older Americans Act of 1965 and established a national nutrition program for seniors 60 years and older. Since 2002, Meals on Wheels programs from across the country have joined forces for the annual awareness campaign to celebrate this successful public-private partnership and garner the support needed to fill the gap between the seniors served and those still in need.
Preble County Council on Aging (PCCOA) is part of the Meals on Wheels Network, but the program is technically called simply “Home Delivered Meals.” Every year to celebrate March for Meals, PCCOA holds “Big Wheels Week,” a week when prominent individuals from the community and county ride along with Home Delivered Meals drivers to deliver meals to local seniors.
The week was held Monday, March 19 through Friday, March 23 and brought many Preble County representatives to the center and homes of seniors to experience firsthand the difference Home Delivered Meals can make on a life.
“We are having local dignitaries come in to ride along with the Home Delivered Meal drivers, in an effort to spread awareness of senior hunger and also the Home Delivered Meals Program. The event is called Big Wheels Deliver Meals,” PCCOA In-Home Service Manager Ashley Workman said.
“The Home Delivered Meal program is one hot lunch delivered Monday through Friday for Preble County seniors. They have to be 60 years or older and homebound, or lack meal support in their home. If their daughter is living with them or they have a nurse who prepares their meals, they may not be eligible, but we are lucky because we have several different funding sources that we can take a senior who we can see has a need, but may not fit into one funding category or requirement. We do try to maintain the standard that they are 60 and home-bound.”
Seniors are accepted into the program through referral from others or even self-referrals. The program is funded through many different sources, one of those being community-based. Currently, Home Delivered Meals has a waiting list of 12. Community members can donate to sponsor a senior from that waiting list.
The program is currently providing 30 seniors Home Delivered Meals.
“These meals are helping those seniors stay in their homes. That is a major goal of the program, we want those seniors to stay in their homes as long as they can. Having Big Wheels and having people who are leaders in our community see our program and have a personal experience with the program encourages conversation about it with other leaders and people who have some sort of pull in the community to raise awareness about it,” Workman said.
“This program makes a huge impact in the lives of Preble County seniors,” she added. “When we started this program in 2013, we were really only doing 60-70 a day. We have grown tremendously. We have seen a huge demand, our number of seniors are growing and we’re able to get out there, deliver them a hot meal, but also make sure they are safe and taken care of. That way, when they do need extra help staying in their homes, they can.
“At Preble County Council on Aging, it is our mission to help these seniors stay in their homes as long as they can.”
Home Delivered Meal driver Rosa Corey has been delivering meals for three months, but before that she worked at Preble County Council on Aging — in the kitchen.
“I like meeting the elderly, to make sure they get what they need and make sure they’re not going hungry and have everything they need. All of the seniors are nice, I mean, sometimes there are days, but that is how it is with everybody,” she said.
“I think this is an important program, because there are people out there who cannot cook for themselves and are home-bound. The meal that they’re getting could be their only meal of the day. Everybody involved is awesome.”
For area seniors, Home Delivered Meals are a huge help in their day-to-day lives.
“It saves my knees from hurting,” Nellie Fudge said. “I don’t have to stand and cook and then stand and do dishes. It helps a lot. A lot of times there is enough left over for supper and I can fix one other thing and have a good enough meal.”
“I started getting meals this year. The meals help because I don’t cook anymore and I think its just a good prevision. It makes them easier and the meals are perfect, I like the combinations and all of it,” Phillis Massa said.
For senior Elaine Ryan, the Home Delivered Meals “mean everything.”
“I’ve been getting these meals delivered since 2015. I lived in New Lebanon and moved out here in November of 2014 — I didn’t get started until January or February. The reason I get the meals is because I can’t cook and I can’t stand very long. I have a tendency that my legs go out on me,” Ryan said.
“I had cancer, so I had chemo and I had nerve damage. Everything is numb. I can’t open a can,” she said. “This is the only hot meal I get. They mean everything to me. You have no idea how much this helps. This is the joy in my life. The people who come out in the sun, heat, ice, snow, cold and bring me a meal mean more to me than you’ll ever know. It is a Godsend. It is a blessing.”
“The drivers come out with a smile on their face and they talk to me, even if they’re only here for a few minutes, because I know they’re busy. I also have the drivers take me to my appointments,” Ryan added. “They get out of the car and make sure I get in and out okay. It is like the seniors taking care of the seniors up there — and it is really great.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH