Providing Food and Companionship to Seniors, Others in Need
Most of us take for granted the ability to prepare our own meals or to run to the store to pick something up. Imagine being confined to your home and having to depend on others to provide your basic needs.
Now, imagine daily noontime visits, at which times a hot, fresh meal is delivered to you, along with a friendly smile and conversation from someone who genuinely cares about you: a Meals on Wheels of Norman volunteer.
I recently spoke with Summer McGuire, Meals on Wheels of Norman associate director, about this worthy organization.
What is Meals on Wheels’ main mission?
Meals on Wheels of Norman Inc. provides nutritious meals to Norman’s seniors, disabled or ill residents who are in need.
Individuals need to live in Norman and be age 60 or older. Anyone younger than 60 needs to have doctor’s verification of their illness or disability.
What role do volunteers play?
The majority of our volunteer needs are associated with delivering meals daily (Monday-Friday) during the noontime hour. We are always in need of regular drivers who drive the same route on the same day each week, along with substitute drivers who fill in as needed and as their schedule allows. Often, the volunteer driver is the only outside contact that clients receive each day. It means more to them than just a meal.
In what other ways can people help?
There are a variety of ways to help. We ALWAYS need volunteers to deliver meals, especially this summer. We have had a lot of our OU students leave and are finding ourselves with the bare minimum needed. On July 25, we host our annual Golf Scramble at The Trails Golf Club in Norman. Volunteers are needed the day of the scramble.
We also need volunteers to help assemble and deliver holiday meals for Labor Day, when we will not be delivering.
Volunteers are also more than welcome to host canned food, pet food (for the Animeals Pet Food program–ensuring the furry friends of our clients are receiving proper nutrition), and/or Ensure Nutritional Drink drives to help meet our client’s other needs.
We are always in need of financial contributions. Two-thirds of Meals on Wheels recipients qualify to receive meals free of charge at a reduced price.
What unique needs does your organization face?
Our main efforts focus on ensuring meal recipients receive proper nutrition each day to remain independent. Most clients face other challenges beyond nutrition. Unless otherwise designated, all donations and proceeds help provide meals to Norman’s ill, disabled and elderly meal recipients.
Fortunately, we have been able to provide several additional resources to our clients through donations or funds specifically designated for the need.
Your greatest challenges?
The greatest challenge is definitely financial. We are seeing the effects of the oil and gas crisis, along with federal financial cuts to the elderly.
Not only are we seeing a decline in the amount our supporters are donating, but our meal recipients are calling in and explaining that their monthly income is being reduced and they are no longer able to pay the price initially agreed upon. In these cases, we redo their income screening, and generally they qualify to pay at a more reduced price than before. This broadens the gap in what we pay for meals and the amount clients pay. Typically, this gap is funded through grants, fundraisers and donations.
At the end of the day, we are looking to expand ways in which we create awareness to the community about our needs, as well as ways to expand our resources through grants.
How have you grown?
In the past 10 years, we have seen a 60 percent increase in the number of clients we serve. As a result, we have doubled the number of delivery routes and volunteers. We currently deliver approximately 250 meals daily to clients on 20 different delivery routes in Norman.
For more information, including volunteer opportunities, call 321.7272.