Butler County residents, officials support Meals on Wheels

A mix of social agency workers, elected officials and residents helped to deliver meals during a special event held as part of the 14th annual March for Meals — a month-long, nationwide celebration of Meal on Wheels and the home-bound and vulnerable people who rely on the safety net.

Hamilton Mayor Patrick Moeller attended Monday’s event and he called the program vital for those who need the nutritious meals delivered each day.

“Meals on Wheels accomplishes many goals … nutritious meals for seniors, keeps seniors in their homes as opposed to nursing homes, provides face-to-face contact between those who deliver meals and the recipients for health and safety checks, and saves millions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid expense,” Moeller said. “It is a quality program run by quality people.”

Amy Wylie, Vice President of Community Based Services at Community First, said she was glad to see the community respond and interact with the recipients when they went out with drivers on their routes.

“As one of the largest providers of this service in Butler County, we delivered 145,901 meals last year. This year, we are delivering about 3,300 meals per week,” she said. “We touch lots of lives with this program, and the impact is enormous for the community.”

The drivers used to be all-volunteer, according to Melissa Knueven of Community First.

“About a year ago, we transitioned into making them paid employees in order to maintain more consistent drivers and wellness checks with recipients,” she said.

Mitchell Willis, director of development for Shared Harvest Foodbank, said the Meals on Wheals program does more than deliver food.

“It’s a wonderful blessing when you’re greeted at the door by a smiling face waiting to share words of kindness with you,” he said.

Liz Hayden, Hamilton’s business development specialist, saluted the drivers during Monday’s event, comparing them to postal delivery workers — delivering meals through rain, sleet, snow or shine.

“It has been really a great opportunity to learn about Meals on Wheels and who the program helps in our community,” Hayden said. “Not only does the program ensure our seniors have meals to eat, it provides the opportunity to touch base with them regularly to make sure they are doing okay.”