Volunteers are the lifeblood of any successful non-profit organization, and Meals on Wheels proves that on a daily basis.
On Wednesday morning, the 15th annual March for Meals campaign began at SourcePoint. It is a national event to help raise awareness of senior hunger and isolation.
Volunteers arrived at 6:30 a.m. to prepare meals for delivery.
“We are the pack team. We are working on tomorrow’s meal,” said Phyllis Patterson, who worked with a half-dozen others on the small assembly line putting chicken, potatoes and carrots into sealed containers. Those will be delivered by other trained volunteers Monday through Friday.
This marks Patterson’s seventh year as a volunteer.
“It’s just giving back,” Patterson said. “I’m happy to be here and ready to serve.”
Each year, SourcePoint’s Meals on Wheels program provides more than 200,000 meals to seniors and others in need in Delaware County. In 2016 there were 201,664 meals served. The goal for 2017 is 208,700 meals.
Wednesday also was a Community Champions event, during which local officials and community leaders assisted in preparing and delivering the meals.
Karen Pillion, nutrition program manager at SourcePoint, oversees the logistics of the meal delivery.
“We have 36 routes in Delaware County, everywhere … ranging from Shawnee Hills to Ostrander, Ashley and the city of Delaware. It’s run with 99 percent volunteers,” Pillion said.
She estimates the agency uses about 290 volunteers to prepare and deliver meals during an average week. Meal menus are prepared six weeks in advance and are approved by a registered dietitian and the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging.
“We are always recruiting and training volunteers,” Pillion said.
Damian Gresh, food and beverage services manager, said about a thousand meals per day go out the door.
“People can order what they want. We have nine options, including low-sodium and low-carb choices,” Gresh said.
Gresh said the agency is modernizing its menu.
Marla Crouch, chef’s assistant, was helping pack cold items — mainly cartons of orange juice and milk.
“I’ve been helping for five years, two days a week,” Crouch said. “I usually put together the alternate meals, but I help out where ever they need me.”
Conchel can be reached at 740-413-0900.