DATE POSTED: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 4:25 PM EDT
By Lea Kahn
For nearly 30 years, Lawrence Township Meals on Wheels has been delivering a hot meal every weekday to those who cannot cook for themselves — mostly the elderly and others who are convalescing after a hospital stay.
Around noon, a two-member team of volunteers climbs the steps, rings the doorbell and waits for the client to answer the door. In their hands is a hot meal that includes a hot entrée, a salad, a roll and butter, juice or milk, and a dessert.
And while the meals are nutritious and tailored to the client’s dietary requirements, it’s often more than just a meal that is important. It’s the companionship and human contact between volunteer and client, said Joyce Stillwell. She is the executive director of the nonprofit Lawrence Township Meals on Wheels.
”The volunteer may be the only person (the client) comes into contact with all day. It’s their social time. It’s the bright spot of their day,” said Ms. Stillwell, who delivered meals before she became the executive director in November.
Senior hunger is a major concern, she said. Some senior citizens are physically unable to prepare meals for themselves, or they may not be preparing nutritious meals. But signing up for Lawrence Township Meals on Wheels — which can be done by the senior citizen, their family or friends — ensures that they receive one good meal daily.
”They do need a hot, nutritious meal,” Ms. Stillwell said. “I had Meals on Wheels for my mother. I knew she was covered. I couldn’t get home for lunch, and this would give me peace of mind.”
The meals cost $4.50 each. The majority of clients pay for the meals, but arrangements can be made for those who cannot afford to pay, Ms. Stillwell said. Lawrence Township Meals on Wheels does not want anyone to go without a meal because of the inability to pay for it, she added.
The weekday deliveries also serve as an informal check-up on the client to see if he or she is OK, Ms. Stillwell said. Volunteers are not supposed to leave the meal on the doorstep.
The client roster is always changing, Ms. Stillwell said. Some clients may need help for a few weeks, but others stay on the roll for longer periods of time. The Lawrence Township Meals on Wheels program can accommodate up to 30 clients at a time.
The two-member volunteer team picks up the meals at the ARC Mercer on Ewingville Road in Ewing Township, Ms. Stillwell said. Each team delivers meals to as many as 10 clients. A typical run takes about an hour to complete, she said.
The volunteers can deliver meals for as many days per week as they want. Some volunteers deliver meals once a week, but others are scheduled to make the deliveries two or more days a week, she said.
”It depends on their schedule,” Ms. Stillwell said.
While Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit organization, there are still costs that must be covered. Twice a year — in the spring and in the fall — the group sends out letters seeking contributions. The spring fund drive letters were mailed about three weeks ago.
Lawrence Township Meals on Wheels raises about $25,000 annually through contributions from individuals, businesses, civic and religious organizations, and foundations such as the Lawrence Township Community Foundation and the Mary Roebling Foundation, said Bill Walker. He serves on the Meals on Wheels board of trustees.
”We get $5, $10 and $25 donations,” Mr. Walker said. “It’s mostly $25 donations from many individuals in the township. We have raised about $4,000 or $5,000 (thus far this year). That’s very nice. It’s nice to have the community contribute money for something that goes back into the community.”
For more information about the Lawrence Township Meals on Wheels, go to the group’s Web site at www.ltmow.org.