Smiles, banter and reassurance: Meals on Wheels offers more than nutritional sustenance – Entertainment & Life – The Times

Collectively, Meals on Wheels programs support more than 2.4 million senior citizens, 32,323 of them in Pennsylvania.

Shortly before 11 a.m., Betty Mattsson-Boze raps on the door of Roma Wallace’s apartment in Koppel on a sunny, but brisk day.

“Hi, Roma. How are you doing?” she cheerily asks upon entering.

From a small, wooden basket, Mattsson-Boze unpacks two meals — one hot, one cold — and places them on a table beside Wallace’s easy chair.

Salisbury steak, buttered noodles and peas are in a sealed tray; beef-and-rice soup with carrots in a cup. A paper bag has a chicken salad sandwich, cottage cheese and pears, and angel food cake for later.

Noticing Wallace has no eating utensils, Mattsson-Boze goes to the kitchen to retrieve them.

“There you go,” she says.

“Thank you, Wallace replies.

Mattsson-Boze delivers nutritional sustenance, but far more.

She brings a smile, friendly banter and reassurance that someone cares.

Wallace, a diabetic with balance issues and peripheral neuropathy — numbness, weakness and pins-and-needles sensation in extremities — is a client of College Hill Meals on Wheels, a program that addresses senior isolation and hunger.

For some, Mattsson-Boze, the only person a client will see all week, provides a wellness check to make sure everything’s OK.

Meals are provided to those 60 and older who are physically unable to cook or shop for themselves — people like Wallace.

It’s largely dependent on volunteers — people like Mattsson-Boze — who prepare and deliver meals. Last year, College Hill Meals on Wheels volunteers donated 3,761 hours.

College Hill Meals on Wheels in Beaver Falls is one of more than 5,000 independently run, community-based programs in America, according to Meals on Wheels America, a national leadership network that provides education, research and advocacy support, but not direct meal service.

Collectively, Meals on Wheels programs support more than 2.4 million senior citizens, 32,323 of them in Pennsylvania.

Funding for most programs, Meals on Wheels America said, comes from state and/or local sources, private donations, and additional federal funding such as Community Development Block Grants.

“We’re an independent,” said Gayle Knight of Beaver Falls, a kitchen volunteer, meaning College Hill MOW, operating autonomously, relies solely on donations — monetary and food. It’s not incorporated as a nonprofit and thus does not receive grants, she said.

Franciscan Manor, a senior living community in Patterson Township, often bakes and donates cookies, Knight said. Churches help, too. One sends monetary donations three times a year and another hosts food drives, she said.

When the service began in Beaver Falls in 1973, it was under the umbrella of Lutheran Service Society, said Frances McDonald of Beaver Falls, who’s been volunteering with College Hill MOW since 1990. But about eight years ago, it became independent.

LSS continues to oversee a Meals on Wheels program based in Rochester.

College Hill MOW operates out of the kitchen of College Hill Reformed Presbyterian Church at 3400 Fifth Ave. in Beaver Falls. Staffed by 35 to 40 volunteers, it serves 20 clients in Beaver Falls, West Mayfield, Homewood, Koppel and North Sewickley Township. Clients can sign up for meals Monday through Friday, or days of their choosing, excluding holidays. Cost is $6 a day or $30 a week.


‘We do a little bit of everything’

Donna Bollinger of Beaver Falls, the cook at College Hill MOW the past seven years, is the only paid staffer. She arrives at the church at 6:30 a.m. weekdays to prepare meals, assisted by at least two volunteers.

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