The Washington Senior Center and Mid-East Area Agency on Aging are participating in the national March for Meals campaign, an annual monthlong event sponsored by the Meals On Wheels Association of America.
Part of the event is Community Champions Week, which will run March 17-21, and will honor volunteers at the center and with the Meals on Wheels program.
“We’re recognizing volunteers who, on a daily basis, deliver meals,” said Debbie Steagall, senior center administrator.
Steagall also hopes to make the public aware of senior hunger, which is a “serious problem impacting seniors in our community and seniors across the nation.”
“People don’t realize that the Meals on Wheels program is available, and Washington is probably one of the few communities that has two Meals on Wheels programs available,” she said.
In Washington, volunteers deliver an average of 60 meals per day. There are 31 volunteers who help deliver meals five days per week. Of those, the average length of time someone has delivered is about five years.
Some have been delivering less than one year and one has been involved with the program for 20 years.
Rainbow Activity Center and Emmaus Home clients also help deliver meals.
“There is no way one person could deliver all the meals,” Steagall said. “Without volunteers we wouldn’t have the Meals on Wheels program.”
The Meals on Wheels program is separate from the hospital’s program, which is privately funded.
The main difference between the programs, Steagall said, is that the senior center program only serves those over 60 years of age.
In addition to four in-town routes, the Washington Senior Center has a rural route, which delivers to New Haven, Berger and outlying towns. A paid driver runs the rural route, while the in-town routes are done by volunteers.
There are an additional 15 volunteers who deliver meals in New Haven. A driver meets volunteers in New Haven with the hot meals, which are then delivered to clients.
The center suggests a donation of $3.25 per meal, however, clients can pay whatever they can afford.
The program began 30 years ago, in about 1984.
Steagall said another goal of March for Meals is to help recruit new volunteers from the community and to increase fund-raising fro local businesses and supporters.
Although the Meals on Wheels program is in good shape volunteer-wise, Steagall said she could use more volunteers to help out at the front desk, in the kitchen, library, cleaning up and to host classes.
“Almost all of the classes are done by volunteers,” she said. “If anybody has a special talent they would want to share, I am always open to suggestions as far as starting classes.”
At any time people can mail donations to the senior center and note that it is for the Meals on Wheels program and it will go directly to the program, Steagall said.
Businesses and organizations are being encouraged to help fund or deliver meals to homebound seniors.
Businesses can donate weekly, monthly or one time and can provide funds or raw goods for the meal. Details will be worked out with each organization.
Steagall noted that meals cannot be home-cooked and must be prepared at a state health-inspected facility.
Donations may be mailed to the Washington Senior Center, 1459 W. Fifth St., Washington, MO 63090.
For more information or to enroll in the Meals on Wheels program, people may call Steagall, 636-239-3374.