As I’ve mentioned before, I’m proud to be a member of the Leadership Rogers County Class of 2015. During our first session, we had an opportunity to meet members of several local non-profit organizations. One of these was Meals on Wheels.
Last week, I had a chance to learn even more, as I sat down with a couple of their officers, Jack Weyler, Larry Dealy, and Paul Denis.
The first thing I learned surprised me. Meals on Wheels has been active in Claremore since 1978. I mean, that’s older than I am! (Barely.) The group began in the kitchen at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, and moved to its current location in the 1980s. They are located in a building directly east of St. Paul Episcopal Church. Essentially, they moved across the street.
Meals on Wheels (a United Way agency) serves 12,000 meals per year, and that’s in Claremore alone. Impressive, especially since the entire organization is operated by approximately 150 (give or take) volunteers.
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the crew assembles early in the morning and begins cooking. The menu is designed in one-month increments, based on what kinds of food are currently in the Meals on Wheels pantry. Some of the dishes are chili, stew, chicken and rice, sausage breakfast casserole, tilapia and pork chops. Each meal consists of an entree, veggie, bread, fruit and dessert. Since deliveries are made three times per week, the portions are extra large, to ensure two meals, if necessary. On the day that I visited, I was given a lunch, so I could see what Meals on Wheels is all about. It was baked barbecue chicken, peas, mashed potatoes and gravy, and an almond/poppy seed bread. It was pretty delicious and there was definitely plenty! Let me also add that the delivery drivers all use their own vehicles and their own fuel.
Like most of you (I’m sure), I was under the assumption that Meals on Wheels sets out cardboard boxes around town and waits for folks to drop off canned goods. That’s not the case. Once a year, a few representatives set up camp outside the Claremore Walmart and hand out a list of preferred items to shoppers. This way, those who would like to help can simply pick up a few items from the list. They pay a discounted rate,
thanks to the kind people at Walmart. The food drive started four years ago, and has been increasing in popularity ever since. (I didn’t know about it, otherwise, moreClaremore would have been filling you in!) It’s quite a production, with the fire and police departments and Rogers County Mounted Patrol there to show support.
For any food items that are not obtained through the food drive, Meals on Wheels visits the community food bank in Tulsa on a regular basis. This allows them to get fresh produce and quality meat at an affordable price. In the summer, donations of fresh, homegrown vegetables and fruits are accepted. (You know your neighbor that has bushels of tomatoes each summer? Tell him he can donate to Meals on Wheels!) The Rogers County 4-H Poultry Club donates eggs, including dyed ones for Easter, and the 4-H students often bake fresh bread.
Here in Oklahoma, we sometimes have problems with winter weather. If a homebound person is dependent on Meals on Wheels for food, and the weather is bad, what happens? Enter the Girl Scouts! Local troops of Brownies and Scouts make “Blizzard Bags” for the agency’s clients. If Claremore Public Schools are canceled, Blizzard Bags are delivered in advance, with items such as tea and cocoa, granola bars, cereal, fruit cups and more. The girls love decorating the bags to make them fun. Four rounds of Blizzard Bags were made this year.
In order to be a Meals on Wheels client, there are no age requirements. The rule is simple: the person needs to be unable to care for him or herself. That’s it. There is no charge for meals; however, donations are gratefully accepted.
If you are interested in being a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, you are welcome with open arms! Cooks, cook helpers and substitute drivers are always needed. Volunteers are required to be 21 years old, but exceptions are made at times. Monetary donations are always welcome.
The folks I met at Meals on Wheels were all happy, friendly and seemed to truly love what they were doing: making a difference. Whether slicing bread or sweeping the floor, the enthusiasm was contagious. The volunteers, like the clients, come from all walks of life; there are retired teachers, military personnel, businesspeople, blue collar works…anyone and everyone can be a helper.
For more information on Meals on Wheels, please call 918-342-2006. If you’d like to see the group in action, stop by with helping hands on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday morning between 8a – 11a at 715 E. McClellan.
-MCM Staffer Ashley,
who loves both volunteering and bbq chicken