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Nourishment for Body and Soul

Meal on Wheels of Eastern Kansas, Inc. celebrates 50 years of caring for area seniors

It is common to see many organizations deliver holiday dinners to people in need during the Thanksgiving season. However, Meal on Wheels of Eastern Kansas, Inc. feeds area seniors daily and assists in monitoring their safety and wellbeing. It’s a mission they first started in 1972. They joined forces with Midland Care five years ago and now have a permanent location
at the Compass Center for Senior Independence in Topeka. Currently, Meals on Wheels serves approximately 1,200 seniors in Shawnee, Jefferson, and Douglas counties.

“We were looking to partner with agencies to grow our program and serve more people, and Midland was a great fit,” says Meals on Wheels director Kim Williams. “It’s nice that we can help more people in the communities we serve.”

Between 900 to 1,000 meals are made daily at the Topeka Westport location. A registered dietitian creates the menus, which are then reviewed in a group menu meeting. The menu cycle repeats every six weeks. Clients and volunteers take surveys about the food offerings. The staff also keeps track of complements or complaints made via the phone.

“We take their comments seriously. Once we get so many compliments or complaints, we take them to the menu meetings and adjust as we need to,” Williams says.

More than 800 volunteers deliver meals. They can commit to as many days of service as they wish. Each delivery route takes an hour or less to complete. It’s as simple as picking up the delivery bags, following the route sheet, delivering the meals, and bringing the bags back. Then they can go home or return to work.

Volunteers also keep an eye out for the client’s wellbeing and safety. Should something seem amiss—the person doesn’t answer the door, or there are changes in their behavior or surroundings—Meals on Wheels will report the issue to the client’s designated contact person.

Williams says, “Volunteers get to see that they’re making a difference every day. Just bringing a friendly smile to them that they may not get anywhere else, whether it’s 30 seconds delivering a meal or a few minutes visiting. Clients form relationships with volunteers. You’re making a difference and getting to see the direct impact of it.”

Seniors who are not considered homebound and can get around without assistance can receive noontime meals at one of the numerous Meals on Wheels dining centers in all three counties. They also can participate in any activities offered at the center and socialize with other seniors. Or, they can just pick up a meal to take home.

“We always say it’s more than a meal,” Williams says. “We’re providing a safety check. We’re providing that smile. A lot of them don’t have family or anyone else that’s close by. When we get the participant signed up and talk to the family, we let them know we’ll be calling them if something is out of the norm. They really appreciate that. It’s peace of mind for them knowing that if they don’t hear from us, then everything must be going okay.”

To learn more about Meals on Wheels of Eastern Kansas or make a donation, go to MOWKS.org.

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