United Way Presents: Meals on Wheels
By Dawn Burleigh
(Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of a 21-part series on the partners of United Way of Orange County.)
Meals on Wheels provides hundreds of meals every weekday to seniors and homebound residents in Orange County. They also have four Senior Meal Centers established throughout the community.
Like so many others, COVID made an impact on Meals on Wheels located at Essie Bellfield Community Center located at 103 5th Street in Orange.
“PreCOVID, we had 25-30 seniors a day at the center for meals,” Executive Director Karen Y. Stevens said. “Between concerns for health and if the weather is bad, we see less in person.”
The service also has 11 routes with 35-45 seniors per route which have a meal delivered to them five days a week, Monday – Friday.
“Some of these individuals would starve without this service,” Stevens said. “Some just do not have the funds for food. Our goal is to target low income.”
Funds the organization receive through United Way grants help purchase raw food, plastic trays, the film to seal the trays, and plasticware for the meals served to the seniors.
“Without the funding through the grants, we would not be able to feed the people we so,” Stevens said.
While Orange Community Action Association (OCAA) is three departments, the funding from United Way of Orange County only funds the Meals on Wheels department.
“We have a transportation program but funding for it comes from Area for Aging and TxDOT,” Stevens said.
Stevens added that while they ask for a donation for the meals, it is not mandatory.
“We love volunteers,” Stevens said. “We had one that collected and donated animal food which we delivered as we delivered the meals so the senior would not have to decide between feeding their animal or themselves.”
The center is only closed 10 days a year and for those times, they use volunteers to assemble the boxes. The boxes will have shelf stable foods such as crackers, soup, pudding and juice.
“We also will have volunteers help with filing, computer data entry, if qualified, mop, wash dishes,” Stevens said. “We will find something and appreciate the assistance.”
She added that without the grants, the organization would not be able to operate.
“If we had to operate on donations, we would not be fully funded.”
The OCAA’s Senior Meal Centers serve anyone 60 years of age and older, regardless of race, sex, religion, or income level. In addition to lunch, participants share social and recreational activities and receive additional benefits such as nutrition education, health and welfare counseling, information and referral services.
They operate a Nutrition Transportation Program that brings participants to and from the Orange Senior Center and also to limited places within the City of Orange to anyone 60 years of age or older who resides within the City of Orange. Individuals are asked to contribute based on their ability to pay; however, no eligible person will be denied a meal based on their refusal or inability to pay.
“All jobs give you satisfaction to some degree but working for Meals on Wheels in Orange has been very rewarding,” Stevens said. “Not only for the day-to-day activity, but the warm fuzzy feeling you get by knowing that you are truly helping others. A sense of pride to do the very best for our elderly and disabled is always at the forefront of my mind.”
To sign up for Meals on Wheels, call 409-886-2186 and ask for Lisa.
To make a donation to United Way of Orange County, visit https://www.uwoctx.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=1