Meals on Wheels North Jersey (MOWNJ) delivers so much more than just a meal. The non-profit organization supports seniors, individuals with disabilities, and even people who may need some temporary meal support due to surgery. But, in addition to providing healthful, nutritious meals, they provide a valuable “check-in” visit to people who live alone and, sometimes, fall through the cracks of social services.
Executive Director, Jeanne Martin understands the importance of the personal touch. “We try to use our volunteers right in the towns in which they live,” says Jeanne. “That is what builds a relationship and a comfort level. We’re not just a food delivery service. That personal contact is so important,” says Jeanne. “Our volunteers are the backbone of everything we do—we can’t do it without them.
Because the MOWNJ volunteers play such an important role in the lives of the elderly neighbors, Jeanne ensures all volunteers are carefully background-checked and personally interviewed. “We have had situations in which we discovered an older client who was left alone when home health aides failed to show up, or clients who begin to decline mentally or physically. Our volunteers frequently check back in on clients when they suspect that they may be in distress. They really care and have literally saved lives.”
The organization has a fee-for-service model with the base price being $6.50 per meal, however thanks to government funding, private donations, and grants, Meals on Wheels is able to subsidize the cost for those who cannot afford it. “We fundraise for our operating fund because we never want to have to say ‘no’ to anyone,” says Jeanne.
Currently running 21 routes with 200 clients manned by 500 volunteers, it’s a herculean effort. Meals are prepared offsite in partnership with another organization and then delivered to locations in Westwood, River Edge, Mahwah, and Oakland. Volunteers come and pick up the meals to be delivered to clients who live in their area. They communicate any issues or updates back to Jean via an app.
Just like a well-oiled machine, there are a lot of moving parts. But the volunteer commitment is extremely reasonable—only two hours a month can make a big difference in the lives of seniors and shut-ins. Jeanne is especially looking for volunteers in the areas of Westwood, Hillsdale, Park Ridge, and River Vale. MOWNJ also works with college students studying nursing, social work, nutrition science, business administration, and music therapy. The organization is currently seeking volunteers who wish to share their expertise in computer technology or the trades for their offices in the Christ Lutheran Church at 32 Pascack Road in Woodcliff Lake.
“I have a great job. I get to be creative, work with different people with various skills and talents, as well as partner with other organizations. I enjoy connecting people with appropriate resources. Over the years, I’ve worked as an insurance administrator and with special ed and disability services. However, when I saw this job—I knew I wanted it—it’s so rewarding!”