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Senior Meals Is More Than Wheels

The program we think of of Meals On Wheels is a lot more than delivering meals to seniors in Kent County.

On a visit to the Senior Meals program the day before Thanksgiving, workers and volunteers at the site since about 5 a.m. were busy cooking, packaging, and sorting meals to be delivered to seniors. But in addition, workers and volunteers at 14 dining sites around Kent County were also preparing to serve meals to seniors who are unable to cook for themselves but are able to make their way to a dining site. The program also has three food pantries for seniors.

Despite the buzz, there is great care going into the operation. “We have a lot of people that have special diets, that have intolerances, things they can’t have,” said Senior Meals Operations Director Lisa Wideman. “So it’s not just throwing the meals together.”

Senior Meals prepares and serves more than 2,000 meals a day. Those delivered to homes and apartments are delivered because not only can the recipients not cook for themselves but they are homebound.

The program depends on a mix of volunteers and staff. Most of the volunteers are involved in delivering Meals On Wheels or serving at the dining sites. There are a number of drivers who are on staff, because the program needs to be confident deliveries will be made, even in winter weather, said Wideman. Paying the drivers also helps with the

David VanderLoon is one of those staff drivers. He retired from Steelcase over five years ago and knocked about a little before a human resources manager at Steelcase suggested Senior Meals. Dave likes his work. “I enjoy my relationships with my customers. You get to know them, and it becomes more than just delivering a meal. It becomes a friendship.”

The Senior Meals program is about to move into a new facility in Grandville. The present site is behind the offices of the Area Agency On Aging In West Michigan off of Fuller Avenue NE in Grand Rapids. The new Grandville site will have more room and allow for more long-term food storage, which will allow Senior Meals to stock up when they find good deals on food.

The program is funding by a mix of federal and state allocations, a county senior millage through property taxes, the United Way, and citizen donors. Some people who receive the meals also make donations.

Information on becoming a volunteer or getting a homebound senior on the program, call 616-459-3111.

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