Meals on Wheels of Hamilton County: Delivery with Compassion
Meals on Wheels of Hamilton County is a not-for-profit organization serving the entire county.
“Most people have never heard of our organization,” says Executive Director Beth Gehlhausen. “We seem to be a well-kept secret even though we really want everyone to know about our services.”
Established in 1975, Meals on Wheels of Hamilton County serves meals to people who are unable to prepare meals for themselves. This need might be permanent for people with physical or mental limitations, or it could be a temporary need while someone is recovering from an illness or surgery. In 2013, this local Meals on Wheels assisted approximately 420 people totaling almost 54,00 meals.
Meals are prepared under the supervision of a registered dietitian in local hospital cafeterias. Community Heart and Vascular Hospital, Community North, Riverview, Sheridan Health Care and Rehabilitation, and St. Vincent Carmel all prepare meals for delivery every Monday through Friday. The hot meals are usually the same food items served on the cafeteria line for the facility that day, but special meals also are available for those with dietary restrictions.
Volunteer drivers pick up food from the hospitals in the late morning at the beginning of their route. The nutritious food is served hot so that clients are ensured a healthy meal that tastes delicious. Each meal is packaged individually in disposable containers for ease of client clean up.
The one-meal plan includes a hot entree and sides, a dessert, bread and butter, and milk or juice. This entire meal with free delivery only costs the client $4.50 per day. A second, lighter meal of a deli sandwich, fruit or dessert, and milk or juice may be added to the order, bringing the two-meal plan total to $7 per day.
Meals on Wheels provides services to individuals at all socioeconomic levels. Approximately 60 percent of meal recipients in Hamilton County pay for their own meals, have meals paid for by family members, or are sponsored by a church or other organization. The remaining 40 percent receive assistance or full sponsorship through the Sponsor-a-Senior program or the Central Indiana Council on Aging.
These deliveries would not be possible without the help of community volunteers. It takes about 340 volunteers a month to deliver meals to Hamilton County Residents. Delivery shifts are available Monday through Friday and normally require a two-hour commitment once a month. Volunteers are screened with a background check and must have a valid driver license and car insurance.
Coordinators train all new volunteers and ensure they are ready for their own routes. Many volunteers team up with a friend or coworker. Fishers Rotary Club, the Town of Fishers and First Merchants Bank consistently provide volunteers for Meals on Wheels of Hamilton County.
“We rarely have a volunteer leave unless their health has changed, their work schedule changes or they move,” Gehlhausen says. “Our volunteers are very committed to the purpose of delivering hot meals to those in need.”
Unlike some organizations that experience high operational costs, Meals on Wheel of Hamilton County has a low overhead because so much is donated from the community. One of the most important of these donations comes from Riverview Hospital, which provides about 1,400 square feet of office space, plus all telephones, computers and the information technology network.
Meals on Wheels also applies for grants, receives annual donations and holds fundraising events to assist with meal subsidies and the small overhead costs to run the organization.
What can you do to help? Spread the word about the services of Meals on Wheels of Hamilton County. “The people in need might be your neighbors, you might sit next to them at church, or you might have a family member trying desperately to continue living independently,” Gehlhausen says. “We are woefully under-serving this county, and we want to change that by spreading the word about our services.”
The next fundraising event, scheduled for September, will feature a Dancing with the Stars of Hamilton County theme. Attendees will have a chance to vote on their favorite dancers to raise money for this worthy organization. Tickets will be available in advance, and information will be posted on the organization’s website as the event date approaches.
For more information about Meals on Wheels of Hamilton County, visit MealsOnWheelsHC.org or call (317) 776-7159.