Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels struggles to meet demand for services; EMU volunteers make appeal for donations

by Pamela Young, Published August 04, 2011


 YPSILANTI: Most people take for granted they'll always have food on the table. But for the nearly 300 senior citizens in the Ypsilanti area who are homebound, getting out to buy food or cooking a meal is impossible. 

That's where the Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels can help. But with the sluggish economy, non-profit agencies like Meals on Wheels are struggling to keep up with the demand for their services.

"Meals on Wheels has one important mission: to deliver prepared meals to the homebound Monday through Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., including holidays," said Morell Boone, board president and Dean of the College of Technology at Eastern Michigan University.

 "The economy is tough and it's really affecting the number of people we are able to serve," he added. "We have had to institute a freeze on our waiting list because funds are not available."

With decreased funding and a growing waiting list, the staff and volunteers are reaching out to the public for help.

"Most of our funding comes from the United Way and individual donations," Boone said. "The economy, however, has caused a decrease in funding and more than 50 percent of our cost now goes toward food."

The average age of their clients is 71 years, said Cathie McClure, a longtime volunteer and board member. In many cases, volunteers are the only persons the elderly may see on a daily basis.  They also conduct wellness checks while delivering food.

"While delivering a meal, one of our volunteers discovered the woman's refrigerator wasn't working and she didn't know it," McClure said. 

The program relies on volunteers to deliver meals; wash and maintain delivery vans; do secretarial work, grant writing and data entry, and represent the organizations at health fairs. 

Volunteers are from the surrounding Ypsilanti communities and various institutions. For example, a large number of Eastern Michigan University faculty, staff and students are active with the organization, said McClure who is a secretary at EMU. Area Girl Scouts also help out, delivering meals on Christmas and Thanksgiving.

The Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels started in January 1974 with 16 homebound individuals, said McClure. The program was so successful that there are now 276 seniors participating and a waiting list of 60.

"We want the community to know their donations will make a huge difference in who gets a meal and who doesn't," McClure said. "We receive funding from the United Way, however, we also need individual donations. A one-time donation or a monthly automatic payment can be set up on our web site."

In an effort to raise money, volunteers have sponsored events such as raffles, an annual benefit dinner at the Marriott, Ypsilanti's holiday homes tour candlelight event and a golf outing. 

For information about Meals on Wheels or to volunteer, go to http://ymow.org/ or call 734.487.9669.


Pamela Young

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