By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Mountain Meals On Wheels (MMOW) has embarked on their 44th year, providing meals within the mountain community. A luncheon was held at the Stone Creek Bistro in Agua Fria on Monday, Oct. 24 to both celebrate and thank all those who have dedicated their time, gasoline and energy to support the worthy cause of being sure that those who cannot furnish their own hot meals are served over all those years.
The program began on Aug. 13, 1979, when Lucy Kelly, who at the time was the president of the Mountain Regional Council on Aging, founded the Mountain Meals on Wheels program. She began furnishing hot nourishing meals to people who were ill or home bound every weekday from Running Springs to Cedarpines Park. The cost then was $2.25 per meal, which was prepared by the Mountains Community Hospital kitchen. The healthy meals are still prepared at the hospital and adjusted to dietary needs of each recipient.
Little has changed since then, except the faces of the volunteers and the recipients. The goals, needs and purpose have remained the same with the mission to provide nutritionally balanced meals to people who are frail or unable to shop or cook their own meals. The cost of the meals has increased only slightly. The food is now served refrigerated in microwaveable, recyclable containers to be reheated by the recipient at their convenience.
The number of recipients has increased to 40 per day, meaning they serve over 9,000 meals per year. The territory has expanded eastward to include Arrowbear and Green Valley Lake.
Mountain Meals on Wheels is an all-volunteer organization which relies solely on the local mountain community and charitable organizations for donations. They do charge a small amount, $65 a month, for each meal delivered, but do not receive any federal or governmental grants or funding. They subsidize for those in need who cannot afford the program. On their website, donors, who they call Angels, may donate to pay for those who cannot afford it. Send an email to [email protected] or call them at (909) 436-8065 to become an Angel.
The luncheon at Stone Creek Bistro was to recognize the drivers and their dedication to the program and thank them. A delicious spaghetti and meatball luncheon with garlic bread and a dessert of cake, cookies and pumpkin and cherry pie was served. They honored Sam Perry, the owner of Stone Creek Bistro and his servers, who all volunteered for the luncheon, by presenting a plaque to them.
The luncheon gave the drivers the opportunity to meet each other, since they do their deliveries independently. Many of the quiet and longtime movers and shakers of the mountain communities were seen there. At the luncheon, they recognized everyone in attendance for their dedication and longevity; some have been active for more than 20 years.
The board members of MMOW include President Jack Cooperman, Treasurer Wilma Rexwinkel, Secretary Annette Conzo and Volunteer Coordinator Laura De La Parra. They are always seeking others who want to volunteer and help the group.
Mountain Meals On Wheels is proud to have again, for 2023, reached GuideStar’s GOLD Level of Transparency. GuideStar is perhaps the nation’s premier database of nonprofit organizations. A GOLD level means MMOW maintains complete financial and organizational transparency within GuideStar and has established goals and strategies to maintain such a high quality 501(c) (3) organization. Only 0.5 percent of nonprofit organizations within the GuideStar community reach this GOLD level!
They are always seeking more drivers. Each volunteer driver, using their own vehicle, only drives once a week or every other week, picking up the meals at the hospital and usually delivering within their community. The drivers take pride in their volunteerism and get the satisfaction in knowing they are assisting those in need, enabling them to continue to live independently in their own homes. The drivers provide more than just meals; they check in on the recipients and check in with family or friends. During last winter’s snow, some went to food banks and got additional food for them and others even dug out driveways so they could leave.
With more drivers, it is less of a burden on each of them. It only takes about 1-1/2 hours for each driver to complete one of the four routes that cover the mountain area from Cedarpines Park to Green Valley Lake. If you would like to join their dedicated team of drivers, the criteria includes having a valid driver’s license, an insured vehicle and being a person who likes to drive and meet people and is able to climb up stairs. If you are interested in driving or helping MMOW, send your contact information to [email protected].
If you or someone you know needs the program because they are unable to get to the market to shop or prepare healthy meals, please discuss it with them and have them apply. Further information may be found at www.MountainMealsOnWheels.org.
Meals on Wheels drivers will again be delivering the community Thanksgiving Day meals for those shut-ins who pre-register this year.