One ride with Meals on Wheels Johnson and Ellis Counties is all it takes to prove the essence of the program to be vital for homebound residents.
Lisa Deese, community relations director for Meals on Wheels Johnson and Ellis Counties, has worked for the nonprofit for precisely 10 years. She drove the Daily Light on a Monday afternoon to deliver meals and newspapers to folks near downtown.
As Deese drove to the first home, she relayed that volunteers are initially hesitant to get involved, worried about how time-consuming the job might be. Deese assured only one hour, one day a week is all that is needed to make an impact.
“I love community, service, educating and talking to people and getting them as excited about Meals on Wheels as I am,” Deese stated.
“It’s so easy to do, and once you do it you’re like, ‘Oh wow, why did I wait?’ Because you are able to touch eight or nine people’s lives in an hour. Our volunteer might be the only person they see all day,” she emphasized.
The daily checks are just as vital as the nutritious meal, she explained. “When it comes Wednesday we find that people have fallen over the weekend so that daily touch and interaction is important because not everyone has family […] It’s sad.”
Currently, Meals on Wheels purchases food from Fort Worth. A campaign plan has almost completed phase one of establishing a kitchen in Cleburne. “We are changing food vendors, going into a partnership with GA foods. MOWJEC is going to be the first meal program in Texas to us to this food provider. We are excited about that,” Deese informed.
Once the Cleburne facility is finished, another will be constructed in the eastern service area in Ellis County, which is considered phase two and will begin toward the end of the summer. “We’re close, real close,” Deese iterated.
The third and final phase will be planning for the future by building a larger admission area for the growing population and staff.
The third home delivered last Monday to was Mary, who has received meals for more than a month. Mary lives with severe arthritis, which makes it difficult for her to operate a kitchen due to her hands tensing up. She is also wheelchair bound.
Mary expressed how she was not sure if she wanted to continue the service because the same meals are provided. “It’s nothing different. It’s just from one day to the next, you’re getting the same stuff,” Mary elaborated.
The meals are rotated, and a monthly menu is available to inform clients what is delivered in advance. Once Deese relayed to Washington that a new vendor will soon be in operation, she was interested to know more.
“They are going to be a better flavor and taste too,” Deese assured.
“As our baby boomers are aging, we know we should be serving twice as many meals in our communities than what we are,” Deese relayed. “One thing is educating our community that we are a senior service. We are not only for low-income seniors. We are for any senior that is hungry. You cannot put a price tag on hunger.”
In the Ellis and Johnson Counties area, 65 percent of clients are female while the remaining 35 percent are male. Approximately 93 percent of clients are over 60 years old, 69 percent are over 70 percent and 37 percent of clients are over 80 years old. Also, nine percent of clients are over 90 years old, and .4 percent are older than 100.
Furthermore, 16 percent of folks who receive Meals on Wheels are veterans, and 31 percent are a spouse of a veteran.
Volunteers deliver Monday through Friday at lunchtime. MOWJEC have 96 routes delivered by dedicated volunteers.
“Our volunteers are the eyes and ears because there is no way we can feed 700 people with our staff of 25,” Deese emphasized.
There are about 600 volunteers in the system, and in the last six months, the nonprofit started a Sardis route and also in Bristol. Deese found that in more of the rural areas is more challenging because it can be out of the way for some. Dedicated volunteers cover all of the routes, but fill-in volunteers are needed.
If interested in volunteering, sign up on mowjec.org through the volunteer tab.
*Editor's note: Per Meals on Wheels policy, only the first names of clients can be published in order to protect their identity, as most live alone.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450