Volunteers Donate 42,863 Hours in Helping Meals on Wheels Prepare and Deliver 88,201 Meals in Past Year
Thanks to 42,863 hours of dedicated service provided by 878 volunteers, Meals on Wheels (MOW) of Polk County was able to prepare and deliver 88,201 nutritious, home-cooked meals to homebound people in Winter Haven and other communities in eastern Polk County as well as some parts of Lakeland during the past year.
“We thank all of the wonderful volunteers who make it possible for us to feed homebound people each weekday all year long by donating their valuable time serving as drivers, kitchen and warehouse workers and thrift shop clerks,” said MOW Executive Director Susan Eldridge, in welcoming an estimated 250 volunteers, staff, board members and guests to the non-profit’s 47th annual meeting in early November at Heartland Church in downtown Winter Haven.
Eldridge opened the meeting by thanking Pastor Ed Kendrick of Heartland Church for making the church available to MOW. Kendrick, who serves on MOW’s board of directors, offered a blessing before the volunteers enjoyed a buffet dinner as a reward for making it possible for MOW to provide wholesome meals for an estimated 350 homebound people each weekday.
A breakdown of volunteer hours shows 34,233 by drivers who deliver meals on 37 routes; 6,353 by kitchen workers who prep, package meals; and 2,277 by clerks who sort, clean and stock merchandise donated by citizens for sale in the MOW thrift store, a major source of funding for the organization. Hours given by volunteers involved in fundraising, office work and the board of directors are not included in these totals.
One of the highlights of the annual meeting came when 30 volunteers were recognized for their combined total of 498 years of dedicated service to MOW, with Emma Jean Hackle leading the way with 33 years. She was closely followed by Anne Romoser and Bill Romoser with 30 years each; Ann and Rex Yentes with 28 years each; and Dan Mann and Paul Wood, both 25 years.
Volunteers who observed other milestones in 2019 were Bernie Liebal, 18 years; Betsy Rod, 17 years; and Bob Halifin, George Seagraves, Paul Richardson, Sharon Richardson, Jeff Hayes, Jim Myers, Linda Myers and Debbie Kennon; all 15 years.
Also recognized were Irene Wolf, 13 years; Patti Herndon, Hank Schaus, and Mary Walters, all 12 years; John Craig, Marsha Long, Pat Mayberry, Rich Mayberry and Kristin Schnell, all 11 years; and Jim Lee, Linda Lee, Sandy Rodgers, and John Rodgers, all 10 years.
Headquartered at 620 Sixth Street in Winter Haven, MOW Polk County is a non-profit organization that each year prepares and delivers more than 88,000 meals to homebound people, mostly over the age of 65, in Winter Haven, Auburndale, Lake Alfred, Dundee, Haines City, Lake Hamilton, Davenport and parts of Lakeland.
On a typical weekday, volunteers deliver hot meals to 350 homes. These volunteers, including students and seasonal residents, are frequently the only people MOW clients have an opportunity to interact with on a daily basis.
Meals on Wheels of Polk County welcomes volunteers to serve as drivers, kitchen workers, thrift store clerks, fundraisers and board members. Anyone wishing to become involved should call Susan Eldridge at 863-299-1616. Information also can be obtained on the MOW Web site at www.mealsonwheelspolk.com.