It’s 35 years for Meals on Wheels

Published 1:11 pm Friday, June 29, 2007

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Meals on Wheels celebrated its 35th anniversary Thursday morning at Lakeland Hospital, where plenty of smiles, stories and laughs were shared.
Meals on Wheels has been providing two meals a day – one hot and one cold, – to the elderly, disabled or ill residents of Niles and Buchanan.
"We're very pleased with the way this program has turned out and bloomed over the years," said President Roberta Garcia.
The morning started with the annual board meeting, where members discussed and approved items on the agenda.
After the board meeting, special guest Mrs. John (Virginia) Strayer, who was instrumental in starting Meals on Wheels in Niles 35 years ago along with Joy Wentworth, spoke about how it as all began.
"I got a call from Joy Wentworth one day, saying we needed to Meals on Wheels on Niles. I didn't hesitate and told her it sounded like a good idea, so we went from there," Strayer said.
Strayer continued, saying it took much planning and the help of many people to get things started.
"We had someone who went to houses to interview clients. We had to know if they were on any special diets. We had someone else who made up driving routes. We also had to do all of the scheduling, so it took some time, but we got everything straightened out," Strayer said.
However, the group was still missing one key item. "We didn't have an office to work out of. We started in a little room at the hospital, but needed bigger space. The only problem was we had no money, no desk, no chairs, nothing."
That's when Pete Krajci of Krajci's Drug Store stepped in to help.
"He told us we could use his basement rent-free. We got a desk, which we painted black – that's the first black desk I had ever seen. We also got a phone, a hat rack, we had the things we needed to keep us going," Strayer said.
The ladies were also fortunate to get donations from various people and business.
"We would get $50 here and there. The Service League even helped out and some of the churches. With this money we bought specific items we knew we would need the post," including carriers for the food.
Strayer said she is pleased with what Meals has turned into today. When it started in 1972, it had eight clients in Niles and four in Buchanan. Today, Meals drivers deliver food to over 100 clients a day, Monday through Friday.
Of course, Meals on Wheels is always in need of volunteers. You can deliver food everyday, once a week or once a month. For more information on Meals on Wheels, call 687-1462.