Nov. 4, 2012, 11:15

Meals on Wheels serves ways to help those in need

Situated just a couple of miles down the road from the Laramie County Community College is the Meals on Wheels building, where the mission is to provide nutritious meals and other homebound services to elderly, disabled, ill and frail people.

This organization gives the LCCC community and others a place to help those less fortunate this holiday season. Meals on Wheels’ goal is to ensure everyone has a meal appropriate for his or her health concerns and to allow individuals to remain comfortable in their homes instead of living in a nursing home. Meals on Wheels, 2015 S. Greeley highway, serves anyone who is in need, from the elderly to individuals temporarily unable to cook for themselves, or mentally disabled.

It's more than just delivering food

For some individuals, the person who brings them food is the only outside contact they have. The people who deliver the meals do more because they also check an individual’s condition and makes sure the person seems in good health and is receiving enough to eat. Meals on Wheels also provides emergency food rations in case of a snowstorm or other natural disaster that may prevent the delivery of a warm meal.

Sharon Benson, the executive director, said, “The meal is just the tool to be able to get in to be sure that they are OK and safe.” Many lives have been saved throughout the years because of this extra step, noted Benson, who has been with Meals on Wheels for more than 20 years. The people who receive meals rely on volunteers as a source of contact and socialization.

Meals on Wheels has 32 routes a day, and all meals are delivered by volunteers who use their own vehicles and gas. Between five to 14 volunteers are available on a route. Between 200–250 meals are delivered a day with more than 85,000 meals served a year. About 185 volunteer in the kitchen and with driving and about another 20-40 help in the mart store.

Meals are prepared; ready for volunteers to hand out.

Cassie Kelley

LCCC students join to help

Students from LCCC have not only helped in the past but also students in human services and other programs have been able to do a community service practicum. Meals on Wheels has a dietician who can work with students to provide life experiences. One student is working with Meals on Wheels to create a flier for the organization as a part of her community service. The facility has used LCCC’s art program and business program. The opportunities for students to volunteer with Meals on Wheels are many.

Want to lend a helping hand?

Volunteers can help prepare food, package, clean or deliver. Being a volunteer driver takes little more than an hour out of the day starting at 10:30 a.m. and ending by noon. Students can also volunteer at the mart store sorting through donations, cleaning and working the register. For students needing to build work experience, this is a great opportunity to build customer service and other skills needed in the work force, she said.

The Meals on Wheels Mart is run by volunteers, and all items are donated by people and local businesses. The mart is open Wednesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. The mart sells many different types of items, some brand-new, from clothes to knick-knacks and furniture, so buying merchandise is another way to support this group during the holiday season.

Still another way to support is donating merchandise to the mart. It accepts donations on Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. All proceeds go to the facility’s operating expenses, supplies and food for the meals.

Meals on Wheels in Cheyenne, which has functioned since 1970, has an interesting story. The idea for Meals on Wheels started during World War II, providing meals for shut-ins during air raids. Many elderly or people with disabilities were unable to get in and out of bomb shelters, so some women from a church decided to check on the people and bring them meals.

It became so popular that after the war ended, they continued delivering meals. In the late 1950s a woman from Buffalo, N.Y., visited a friend in England who happened to be helping deliver meals and realized the concept could be applied in New York as well. In Cheyenne four women with Church Women United started Meals on Wheels. One of the women in the group was friends with the woman from Buffalo.

The Meals on Wheels van delivers nearly 250 meals a day.

Cassie Kelley

Meals on Wheels across the nation are private independent programs that share a name but are not operated by the same organization. Meals on Wheels in Cheyenne is one of the oldest programs in the U.S. and one of the few programs that offer therapeutic diets. This means it provides diets for people with special or religious dietary needs. It also provides nutritional education to make sure people are getting all the nutrition they need. Meals are offered for both short-term and long-term individuals.

During the holiday season, Meals on Wheels sets up an angel tree at the Property Exchange on Storey Boulevard the day after Thanksgiving. The tree has cards from the clients with little gifts they would like or need for Christmas. People can take the cards and buy a present for the individual and return it to the Property Exchange, who will deliver them to Meals on Wheels. The presents are then delivered to the individuals.

If anyone at LCCC would like, they can contact Sharon Benson at 307-635-5542 and help deliver the presents.