Every weekday for more than 40 years, Edina’s Meals on Wheels program has been delivering hot meals to residents. Members of local churches, knowing there was this need in the community, started the program, says Laurie Lupient, Meals on Wheels board chairwoman. A volunteer team delivers meals to seniors, people with disabilities, and anyone who’s in need in Edina, long or short term.
When the need was recognized, members from participating churches came together to start and financially support the program, and it’s been going strong ever since. “Not only do [churches] financially support it, but they’re also behind the drivers,” Lupient says. “You don’t have to be [a church member] to deliver, but that’s how we’ve really been supported.” And that’s how Lupient got involved, first as a calling coordinator, then a board member, and now as board chair. “I started 15 years ago and I haven’t been able to shake it since,” she says.
That’s also how volunteer driver Chris Makres got involved 12 years ago. He says. “I retired and I thought it would give me something to do, and the church was involved … so I thought I would help support the church.” In Makres’ years of driving, he has not only helped those in need, but meal recipients have left an impression on him, as well. “There was a lady I used to deliver to … she was living on her own and she was like 101 or 102 years old,” he says. Makres never had to ring her doorbell twice. “She always heard it right away,” he says, which isn’t always the case for some recipients.
The Meals on Wheels program is always seeking volunteers, Lupient says, but wintertime and holidays are especially important, and it’s not just because of the meals delivered. “We are not only serving hot, delicious meals, but we’re also there to check in on people, and that one contact may be their only contact of the day,” she says. Meals on Wheels volunteers are providing food, but they’re also providing beneficial interaction for the recipients. And since volunteers are sometimes a recipient’s only daily contact, they always have emergency numbers on hand just in case something is out of the ordinary when they arrive, like no one answering the door. “So whether it’s the holidays, every time somebody delivers a meal, it’s really special for them,” Lupient says.
The holiday season also provides a chance to do something a little extra if funding allows. In the past, drivers have delivered poinsettias, bringing some holiday cheer to the homes of residents who may not get into the spirit of the holidays on their own. Winter can also can mean weather problems, which Meals on Wheels organizers prepare for in the fall. Blizzard boxes, containing frozen prepared meals that can be reheated, are usually delivered to recipients’ homes in October, “so that if we ever have blizzard days, which has happened, when we can’t deliver, [recipients] have something there for an emergency.”
Assuming the weather holds, Meals on Wheels drivers are out delivering meals every weekday. Just before noon, volunteers gather at a designated church to pick up meals from Lettuce Caterers, which has been working with Meals on Wheels for 10 years. “They deliver [the meals] every day, and our drivers come every day, pick up the meals and are given their routes,” Lupient says. It’s a standard daily procedure, but its importance is huge. As volunteers will say, the benefits of participating are numerous. “It’s a really great community program that gets everybody involved,” Lupient says, “whether it’s the volunteers or the people who receive it.”
To participate or donate to Meals on Wheels, or if you know someone who would benefit from its services, visit the Metro Meals on Wheels website at meals-on-wheels.com, or call Edina’s Meals on Wheels coordinator Joanne Larson at 612.990.5398.