MEALS ON WHEELS — Team of workers, volunteers provides way more than lunch

Published 12:06 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

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One organization helping to fight malnourishment among adults is Meals on Wheels of Orange County.

That knock on the door might not seem important, but for some seniors, it may be the only friendly face they see the entire day.

“We are a critical need here in the county. Several of our seniors only have interaction on a daily basis with the delivery driver,” said Kristin Burman, executive director of Meals on Wheels in Orange County. “Not only do we deliver nutritious meals Monday-Friday, we treat them with dignity and concern.”

Sometimes that simple knock on the door can be lifesaving. Burman says a few months ago one of her drivers went to deliver a meal to a regular client, but on that day, the client did not answer the door.

“Dawn (Burleigh) knocked and waited. She thought she heard a faint cry for help. She called 911 and, thank goodness, she did. Once the emergency services arrived, they discovered the elderly woman had fallen through her floor the day before on Monday after her food was delivered. She spent the night hanging on to the beams,” Burman said.

That client was rescued and taken to the hospital for treatment. Later that night, a damaging thunderstorm blew through the city.

“Because Dawn pays attention to our ‘eye on’ approach, we saved this woman’s life,” Burman said. “There is no telling what would have come of our client had Dawn not called 9-1-1.”

As the Meals on Wheels of America website says, it brings hope. It brings health. It brings the nutrition and care that will completely make their day, but a knock on the door can even save lives.

Meals on Wheels started in Philadelphia in 1954 and, according to the national website, is guided by a single goal to support senior neighbors to extend their independence and health as they age.

Meals on Wheels has grown into one of the largest and most effective social movements in America, currently helping 2.4 million seniors annually in virtually every community in the country.

“We serve close to 500 meals a day in Orange County,” Burman says.

Those meals are prepared by hand with a kitchen staff of four to five employees with the assistance of a dietician who provides a menu for clients. Those meals are then delivered by ten drivers.

Besides delivering meals, there are several locations, where seniors who are able, can go to socialize and enjoy one of those same meals.

“[There is] one in Orange at 103 North 5th Street, downtown on the river front. The other two locations are in Bridge City at the Bridge City Senior Center. And then we also have one located at Optimist Village in the community room located there,” Burman said.

Burman says there is a common misconception that the program is based off income.

“While many of our clients are lower income, the only requirement is that you must be 60 years of age or more,” Burman says. “There is a sliding grading scale to determine if the client qualifies for the home delivery portion of the program.”

Burman says if the client does not meet the score set by the state, they are still able to go to one of the congregate locations to eat lunch and visit with their friends.

Since Meals on Wheels is the nutrition portion of the Orange Community Action Association, also a nonprofit, that means, all their funding is through government grants and private donations.

To help raise money to offset the rising cost of consumables, the organization is planning a fundraiser in September.

Friday Night Game Night, Battle of the Businesses, is scheduled Sept. 15.

“These businesses will face off in Family Feud! We will have Old Orange Café Cater dinner, silent auction, door prizes, bottle pull, designer purse raffle and open bar,” Burman said. There is a huge overhead to run a program of this size. We are hoping to raise $25,000 or more for Meals on Wheels.”

Not only does Meals on Wheels in Orange County need additional funds to keep operating, but organizers also need more drivers.

“I desperately need reliable back-up drivers,” Burman says.  “You must be 18 and have a clean driving record. We provide the vehicle and the fuel.”

Burman says it is a blessing to serve the senior citizens of Orange and is excited about growing the program in years to come.

“The majority of the seniors we serve daily have to share the meals with their animals, so it’s vital that we raise funds to continue this program,” Burman said. “Not everyone has family that takes care of them. Our clients truly rely on us.”

For more information on the fundraiser, or to apply for the program for yourself or your loved one, call Meals on Wheels at 409-886-2186.

— Written by Chrissie Mouton