Every week, the Chino Valley Meals on Wheels organization relies on 10 drivers to deliver meals once a day to homebound residents.
“Right now, we have five,” said Cyndi Thomas, Senior Services director. “Everyone’s doubled up.”
What started as a small group of community members in the early 1980s who cooked meals in their own homes to deliver, is now supported by Community Development Block Grants and the Chino Valley Town Council. The delivery of meals, however, is volunteer-based.
The MOW organization puts together about 25,000 meals each year for both the homebound and for congregants coming to the Senior Center in person. The meals themselves are nutritious and cooked up in the Center’s kitchen. They are the same meals that people receive who stop in at the Center for lunch.
“Except for ice cream,” Thomas said, adding that MOW did attempt to keep servings of ice cream frozen long enough to get them into recipients’ homes. Apparently, it didn’t work out that well.
About half the meals produced at the Center go to MOW’s recipients, about half are served on site. Thomas said the organization uses menus provided by the State nutritionist, which offers a little bit of leeway for substitutions. In the protein category, for instance, local MOWs might offer beef instead of chicken.
Whipstone Farms, a local family-owned farm, donates fresh produce. Whatever can’t be used in the meals themselves are offered to seniors, both MOW seniors and those visiting the Center. The same goes for bread and pastries donated by Bimbo Bakery.
About 50 meals need delivering each day. A good driving record, of course, is valued in drivers. They must also pass a background and fingerprint check, something for which the program must pay. At $70 to $80 each, Thomas said it’s important to know volunteers are a good match with MOW.
She often reaches out to church congregations, allowing members to demonstrate “the true meaning of community service and love of our neighbor.”
And, of course, MOW is not just about providing meals Monday through Friday. The driver is sometimes the only person checking up on residents who are without family members living nearby. While some recipients may be part of a church congregation or have friends who stop in, others are not so lucky. The volunteers often keep an eye on the status of those they serve.
Drivers volunteer about two hours a day, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, five days a week. But Thomas said drivers who can commit to just one day a week or be on call as a substitute are also welcomed.
For those interested in learning more about Meals on Wheels, call Cyndi Thomas at 928-636-9114.