Meals on Wheels is a community-minded volunteer organization that fulfills a vital need across the country and right here in Englewood. There are many individuals in our community that are unable to shop for food or cook a meal for themselves in order to provide adequate nutrition to meet their dietary needs. These individuals, seniors for the most part, live alone and are socially isolated as well. Meals on Wheels has a mission to provide a nutritious meal and a watchful eye on the health and safety of their clients – the volunteers who deliver a meal to their doorstep may be the only person they encounter during the course of a day. This service, in turn, may enable that person to continue to live independently.
Meals on Wheels Englewood was founded in 1968 by a retired Englewood restauranteur named David R. Behren, according to MOW’s scrapbook. He recognized the challenge that physically and mentally disabled individuals faced in eating properly. He met with members of the Community Presbyterian Church and the church allowed him and his team to prepare the meals in the church’s kitchen. The church has continued their support of this organization to this today, building a separate kitchen building on church property dedicated to the organization in 1976 to continue its mission in exchange for minimal rent.
Meals on Wheels delivers a nutritious and satisfying meal to its clients six days a week, Monday through Saturday. Menus are planned by Flo Bush who has dedicated herself to this task for 24 years. A meal consists of meat (or other protein,) 2 vegetables, dessert and a beverage. The day that I visited the kitchen, the menu had been pork roast with gravy, oven-roasted potatoes, sliced carrots, pears, dessert and a beverage. Tom Kizi, volunteer director for 7 years, visits food shows to explore new food items for the menu. Meals typically rotate through a three-week cycle so the choices are not repetitious.
Who is eligible for Meals on Wheels’ services? Anyone who can’t cook or shop for himself in the Englewood area. Clients are interviewed in their home to determine their needs. Meals currently cost $3 a day but the cost can be mitigated.
Besides a nutritious and tasty meal, the other benefit that Meals on Wheels recipients receive is a daily safety check when the volunteer delivers the meal. As noted earlier, sometimes this volunteer is the only contact a person has with the outside world on a daily basis. Volunteers genuinely care about their “people” and the gift to the client is priceless.
Meals on Wheels is operated solely on donations and contributions from community businesses and organizations. They receive no government funding. Publix generously donates bread, cakes and pies. Churches such as Christ Lutheran Church and Englewood United Methodist Church periodically offer food donations. Individual monetary donations are greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, the organization is underfunded in its mission to provide nutritious meals. Donations are needed to prevent seniors in this community from facing daily hunger.
The organization is run entirely by volunteers, from Director Tom Kizi, meal planner Flo Bush, the drivers who donate their time and gas mileage, to the clerical staff and other supporters who enable this organization to continue its mission. I met two of the drivers, Sally Stephenson and Dave Reach, who have been driving for three years and asked them why they volunteer their time. They agreed it was the connection with people they serve and knowing that their visit is a welfare and safety check that enables their clients to live independently at home.
Meals on Wheels is a great way to serve if you are looking for a volunteer position where you feel appreciated and needed. You can volunteer in the kitchen preparing meals, help deliver the meals or assist in the office. If you would like to learn more, contact them at 474•4445. If you would like to make a monetary donation, you can send a check to Meals on Wheels, PO Box 782, Englewood, FL 34295. Your support is needed in order to continue David Behren’s vision.