A look at Meals on Wheels: where local matters most

(Image courtesy  Meals on Wheels America )

(Image courtesy Meals on Wheels America)

by Montana Couser

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and many senior citizens don’t have the necessary resources to enjoy food on the holiday. Unfortunately, this is the outcome for many senior citizens who do not have the proper support system, such as family commitment. That's where Meals on Wheels in Takoma Park continues to be a reliable source for the elderly. 

Meals on Wheels is a non-profit organization that has been around since 1954, founded by a group of Philadelphia citizens who wanted to support their senior neighbors. In Ward 4, there is a Meals on Wheels location at 7410 New Hampshire Ave. The ultimate goal of Meals on Wheels is to provide meals for senior citizens who have difficulties leaving their homes and/or cooking on their own. 

Jill Feasley has served as the director of the Takoma Park location as well as a volunteer for two years now. She decided to get involved with Meals on Wheels while she was a stay-at-home mom with her toddler at the time. As director, Jill oversees the entire program, meaning she recruits volunteers, organizes the orientations, schedules the meetings and makes the weekly schedules. Jill said her participation was “very meaningful work and tangible, and the volunteers see the good they’re doing.” Salina Kamara, a volunteer with Meals on Wheels, said, “I’m happy that I can provide them with food for the day and feel like I accomplished a goal.”

Volunteers are the backbone of the non-profit, and it's as easy to do as filling out an online application. Jill said that most volunteers end up calling the organization to talk about options, then apply online. (You can reach Meals on Wheels in Takoma Park at (301) 434-1922.

They need drivers to help deliver food to the elderly, and besides the mandatory background check, there are no other specific qualifications to volunteer in any role. The application is open to everyone, including children and students, as there is no age restriction. 
Volunteers can choose to give their time from a minimum of one day a week to more (though most choose to volunteer once a week). Based on the schedules of the volunteers, they are able to build relationships with the recipients of the meals, because they visit the same recipients on a weekly basis.

“I really enjoy being able to have those brief talks with our seniors," Salina said, "because some really look forward to the visits and being able to talk to us really does brighten their day. I went to a woman’s house and she began to tell me about the time she worked in a factory and met her late husband.” 

Volunteers can work in the kitchen preparing the meals or help with delivering the meals. All drivers must deliver the meals in their own cars, and there are usually two volunteers to a car. One person does the driving while the other gets out and delivers the much needed meals to the senior citizens. Deliveries take place Monday through Friday from 11:15 am until around 1:30 pm  

The senior citizens who receive these meals do not have to meet specific guidelines to receive them. A senior at any age, and in any income bracket, can receive a meal for free or for a small fee. The meals are $7 for two meals a day and $140 for a month. If a person cannot afford these amounts, then they are asked if they can afford $50 or $100 a month. The prices keep decreasing depending upon what amount is affordable for the senior to pay. They also receive the meals for as long as the need them.

All of the meals are made freshly everyday and the seniors receive one hot and one cold meal daily, which is usually a sandwich. Each meal is low in salt, fat, and sugars so that it adheres to everyone’s dietary needs.

Being able to help out in your local neighborhood is critical both for your community, and your own well-being. Consider volunteering with Meals on Wheels, or making a small donation to help them serve seniors who need it.

Ed note: This is a special article written by Howard University student Montana Couser and published for class credit. If you know of a student who wants to write for Petworth News for either the experience or class credit, contact us.

Author Montana Couser

Author Montana Couser

Montana Couser was born and raised in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. Montana is a junior at Howard University currently majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. Upon graduating, Couser plans to become either a news anchor or magazine writer. She has always had a passion for entertainment and current fashion trends but also loves reporting on local and worldwide news stories. When Couser is not reporting, she likes to spend time with her family and friends, listen to the latest albums and visit new restaurants. You may contact Montana through the Petworth News Contact Us page.