Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Meals on Wheels is All About Relationships

Jason Riggs (Roadrunner Food Bank) listens to Sharon Rogers
Sharon Rogers, a long-time volunteer with Meals on Wheels-Albuquerque and a fabulous story-teller, was the featured presenter at the bi-monthly meeting of the Interfaith Hunger Coalition on June 13. She said relationships are what keep meals on wheels vibrant. This means relationships with the clients, relationships among volunteers and staff, relationships with the community, relationships with other agencies and service providers.

Everyone gets a meal, including breakfast. Some clients can pay for all or part of the meal; others on fixed income get their meals free. Medical needs are also an important consideration during the preparation of the meals. "Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque is the only home delivered meal program in our area preparing special diets," MOW-Albuquerque said on its website. "We prepare these special diets for a variety of needs, including diabetes, renal failure, heart issues, chewing and swallowing problems, etc." The volunteers who deliver the meals develop a strong bond with the clients. According to Ms. Rogers, there are occasions when a client's only contact on a given day is with the Meals on Wheels delivery person. 

IHC Education Committee chair Joy Dinaro
An Early Presbyterian Connection
Meals on Wheels in Albuquerque has had a "Presbyterian" connection since its inception. The organization started in the kitchen of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Nob Hill in 1972. Operations later moved to First Presbyterian Church and then to Presbyterian Hospital downtown. Meals on Wheels now has its own site, but the distribution points are all at the various Presbyterian Hospital locations in Albuquerque.

Volunteers serve most of the greater Albuquerque area, including Rio Rancho and Corrales. The East Mountains and Valencia County are not currently served. While increased funding could help expand services to these communities, the most important need is volunteers, said Ms. Rogers.

On the subject of funding, Meals on Wheels Albuquerque is one of the few local affiliates of the national organization that does not receive direct funding from the national Meals on Wheels organization.  According to Ms. Rogers, while the national funding would be helpful, the local board decided it would be better to raise funds locally, allowing greater control over Meals on Wheels-Albuquerque's finances. "We did not want to be in a position where the [national] money would suddenly go away," said Ms. Rogers. That was a prophetic decision on the part of the Meals on Wheels-Albuquerque board. The national organization is funded in part by federal community grants, which are on the chopping block in the Trump administration's initial budget.

Even without the national funding, the local affiliate still receives plenty of support from national Meals on Wheels, including training and networking opportunities and access to programming information and ideas.

While delivering food to homes remains the biggest part of  Meals on Wheels in Albuquerque, the local organization also provides several important services.

Local Harvest: Through this program, Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque purchases locally farmed fruits and vegetables for use in its meals. "The program allows us to support local farmers, our economy, and the environment while providing our clients with fresh and healthy produce that they would be unable to obtain on their own,"

Weekend Pantry Box:  This allows low-income clients to eat food on days when meals are not delivered. "This collaboration between Silver Horizons and Roadrunner Food Bank provides us small boxes of shelf stable, non-perishable items that are delivered to our clients once a month. These boxes include items like crackers, pudding cups, microwavable meals and more. We are grateful to Silver Horizons and Roadrunner Food Bank and thank them for their partnership."

Love on a Leash:  The program provides healthy food and more to the pets of Meals on Wheels Clients. "Having a pet is proven to ease depression and relieve feelings of isolation—something many of our clients struggle with daily. Help our L.I.F.E. program clients keep their furry friends by their side. Services include food, veterinary care, and mobile grooming."

Read more about the Three programs. 

Volunteers Needed
Meals on Wheels currently has 400 volunteers, but more part-time and full-time volunteers are needed to continue the high level of service and to expand operations to other parts of the metropolitan area.  Learn about Volunteer Opportunities

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