Meals on Wheels programs celebrate 50 years Local groups serve 8 area towns, seek volunteers, donations

From left, MOW volunteers Frank Provance and Paul Alcorn, Black River Valley Senior Center administrator Jean Strong and BRVSC board member Sandy Johnson and kitchen staff member Alma Goodman.

At 9 on a recent Monday morning, the tables for lunch at the Springfield Meals Center were already set with decorations and flowers, ready for the lunch crowd. At the side of the room were two long tables filled with thermal coolers and meals. Volunteers rushed through the door, busily loading their cars and preparing for another day’s deliveries.

March 2022 marks 50 years since Meals on Wheels, the nation’s premier nutrition program for seniors, was funded. For Vermont’s aging population, it has become a lifeline for many of our neighbors – even more so during the Covid pandemic.

“Today we’re delivering 109 meals,” said Jane Nichols, a volunteer who was setting out meals that morning. “We prepare anywhere from 85 to 100 meals every day, and then get ready for the dozen or so people who attend our congregate meals at noon.”

Meals on Wheels of Greater Springfield regularly brings meals to seniors who are unable to leave their homes or prepare their own food every day in Springfield, Chester, Andover, Baltimore and Weathersfield. According to Director Sue Levine, there are about 95 local residents who rely on this service regularly, as well as some residents living with disabilities at the Vermont Center for Independent Living. In all, the Springfield meal site delivers more than 2,000 meals every month.

“We just added a gentleman in Chester to my route,” said one volunteer. “He had been falling and had two knees replaced and was just very uncomfortable thinking about shopping and cooking. He is so incredibly grateful that we can make his life just a little bit easier as he recuperates.”

At 10:30 a.m., the staff and volunteers at the Black River Valley Senior Center in Ludlow are admiring a brand new commercial stove, installed just a week before. A long wished-for addition, this is another step to help the center meet its upcoming congregate meal needs, and its growing Meals on Wheels clientele.

The team at the Black River Valley Senior Center delivers meals four days each week, every week, to more than 40 individuals who can not leave their homes or prepare their own meals. In 2021, that amounted to almost 10,000 meals delivered by an all-volunteer staff in Cavendish, Ludlow, and Plymouth. Like all Meals on Wheels programs, the operation relies on volunteer drivers and public donations.

Meals on Wheels  … provides an essential service to seniors,
veterans, and other compromised citizens in this service area
– a service that cannot be done without the support of our community.

Jean Strong
Black River Valley Senior Center

In February, the Crown Point Board of Realtors donated $500 to the program and the Ludlow American Legion Ballard Hobart Post 36 donated $400 worth of gas cards to the volunteer drivers.

Jean Strong, director of the center, expressed her gratitude for both organizations: “March is the 50th anniversary of the Meals on Wheels program, which provides an essential service to seniors, veterans, and other compromised citizens in this service area – a service that cannot be done without the support of our community.”

“The program is focused on nutritional needs, but there is also the social aspect of having a familiar, friendly face come to the door,” says Wendi Germain, the nutrition & wellness director of Senior Solutions, which provides support to the program. “For many, these drivers may be the only face they see all week. We so appreciate these volunteers. I cannot overemphasize how critical it is to have public support for these programs, through both volunteerism and donations.” Germain noted that Meals on Wheels operations across Vermont rely heavily on public donations to keep them running – with more than 50 percent of the funding coming from local donations.

Those wishing to volunteer to deliver in the Ludlow-Cavendish area can contact Jean at 802-228-7421. Donations to help support the operation in its 50th anniversary year can be made by a check to the Black River Valley Senior Center and mailed to them at 10 High St., Ludlow, VT 05149

Those wishing to volunteer to deliver, or to sign up to receive Springfield, Chester or Andover meals, can call Sue Levine at 802-885-5879. Donations to help support the operation in its 50th anniversary year can be made by a check to MOW Greater Springfield and mailed to the at 139 Main St., Springfield, VT 05156.

Or you can donate now online by clicking here. Be sure to designate which MOW organization you wish your funds to go to.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the Community

About the Author: This item was edited from one or more press releases submitted to The Chester Telegraph.

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  1. Tim Roper says:

    For those who might not be aware, it’s easy to earmark the money from your can and bottle returns to Meals on Wheels at the Springfield Bottle Redeemers, across from the Middle School in Springfield. I’ve been doing this for many years and not only do I not miss that money that I’d already spent, it also speeds up the return process because I can just drop off my bags of cans and bottles for the nice folks there to count later. Give it a try!

  2. Bill Dakin says:

    It is fitting that this article celebrating the 50th anniversary of Meals on Wheels is presented on the day that Chester holds its 2022 Town Meeting, as each year, for decades, Maria Contro, a founder of the local Meals on Wheels program, would move the article listed on the Town warning for a vote on the request of Meals on Wheels to be included in the Chester Town budget, always successfully approved by the body. Thank you, Maria Contro, for your many years of leadership in the Meals on Wheels program in delivering food to those in our community in need of food or a kind word and in your contributions of humor and friendship at our annual Town meetings.

    Bill Dakin
    Town Moderator