By Rusty Bradshaw
Some Sun City residents have counted on them for 45 years to make sure they had at least one good meal per day, and they can go on counting on the volunteers of Meals on Wheels.
The agency just completed its 45th year of service and there are no plans to stop now. The first meals were delivered May 1, 1972, according to Pam Kohnken, Meals on Wheels publicity chairwoman.
“Currently, about 20,000 meals are delivered annually to clients,” she said. “We deliver seven days per week, 365 days per year, including holidays.”
The service, operated entirely on donated funds and clients, depends on volunteers for delivery to 12 routes in the community. Each two-person delivery team takes meals to an average of 10 households per delivery.
“We have more than 200 volunteers available to deliver,” Ms. Kohnken said.
Volunteer motivation varies, but most are in it to help others.
“It is a way I can give back now that I am retired,” said Gail Mathis. “When you work, most times you don’t do these kinds of things.”
Arlene Schindler has been a Meals on Wheels volunteer for 33 years, 17 of those in Sun City. She sought out the agency in every community she has lived in that time.
“I always look them (Meals on Wheels) up,” she said.
In addition to helping others, Ms. Schindler believes her volunteer efforts help her accomplish another of her own goals.
“I meet a lot of new people,” she said. “There are a lot of really nice people doing this.”
Ms. Mathis enjoys spending time with the clients during deliveries.
“I like the one-on-one time with the clients,” she said. “It is really positive and it appeals to me.”
During meal deliveries, Ms. Mathis said clients like to talk to those who bring their meals.
“They like to talk and that is positive for them,” Ms. Mathis said. “Some of them are lonely and like to visit with us.”
She added clients are also appreciative of the service, designed to deliver meals to those who are homebound or not physically able to cook for themselves.
“They are always glad to see us,” Ms. Mathis said.
Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver both hot and cold meals to clients in Sun City and Youngtown.
“We look forward to delivering meals for many more years to our friends and neighbors,” Ms. Kohnken said.
The service was originally funded by the Sun City Community Fund and donations from churches, service clubs and individuals. Now, Meals on Wheels survives solely on donations and bequests, according to Ms. Kohnken. Donations fund the service office. Meals are paid for through a $7.50 charge per meal to clients, she added.
The agency has speakers available to provide information to clubs and organizations interested in more information about the service. Call 623-974-9430.
Meals on Wheels in Sun City originated from discussions in 1970 by Sun City residents Rena Williams, Gretchen Bergman, Laura Mathis, Jeans Phillips, Edna Von Pische and the Rev. Duane Thistlewaite. A formal organizational meeting was conducted Oct. 4, 1971. Ms. Williams was named president while Ms. Bergman was secretary and Ms. Mathis treasurer of the first board of directors.
“Patronage growth the first year was phenomenal and has been growing ever since, which testifies both to the need of the service and the quality of the food,” stated an article in the Jubilee, a publication produced in 1984 for Sun City’s 25th anniversary.
Meals were originally prepared by Wilcrest Restaurant, Greenbriar Cafeteria and Duff’s Cafeteria, with Boswell Memorial Hospital taking care of special diets. The hospital staff assumed the meal preparation responsibility in 1980. Meals are now prepared and packed by staff at Banner Rehabilitation Center.