Meals on Wheels thrives in Lansing, Illinois

Nonprofit status helps protect against proposed CDBG budget cuts

by Patricia Muhammad

Lansing Meals on Wheels
From left: Elaine Siersema, Mike Winters, Deb Redendez, and Mary O’Brien prepare meals. They are all volunteers with the Lansing Meals on Wheels program. (Photo courtesy of Denise Cox)
LANSING, Ill. (October 2017) – Denise Cox, Coordinator for Communications, feels a sense of gratification when she assists other drivers in making deliveries to the more than 40 Lansing residents who receive hot, nutritious meals from the Lansing Meals on Wheels program. “For me, getting out to help the elderly is just an outlet to make friends and get back into the community,” Cox said.

Cox has worked with Lansing Meals on Wheels for the last two years. “We deliver meals to the elderly, patients undergoing chemotherapy, or to the homebound who cannot cook for themselves,” she said. “They receive meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays, delivered between 10:30 and noon. The meals usually consist of an entrée—such as meatloaf or fish—a vegetable, and dessert. We attach a little written joke that we enclose along with the meals, so they have a funny little story to read.”

“Some seniors don’t see people for a couple of days at a time, so we provide them with larger portions,” says Elaine Siersema, Meals on Wheels Coordinator. Providing home-delivered Meals on Wheels to seniors is also an opportune time for wellness checks.

Lansing Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels volunteers make a home delivery to Andy and Dolly Veenstra. Deliveries also provide an opportunity for wellness checks. (Photo courtesy of Denise Cox)
Siersema says, “The Meals on Wheels program here in Lansing is very important for elderly people. Our social security checks don’t go up much, but everything else does.”

Proposed cuts

In March 2017, Meals on Wheels received national attention when President Donald Trump’s Administration proposed budget cuts to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, a federally funded program that partially funds Meals on Wheels

The report reveals that more than 5,000 senior nutrition-based programs in the US receive more than 35% of their funding from CDBG and the Older Americans Act programs. A CNN news report says if the proposed budget cut goes through, many programs nationwide would lose vital funding.

People helping people

However, Cox emphasized that the Lansing Meals on Wheels program would not be affected by Washington’s proposed CDBG budget cuts. The Meals on Wheels here in Lansing is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit business funded by the First United Methodist Church. The program got its start more than 20 years ago as a mission headed up by Joan Voll and her husband, who were members of First United Methodist Church.

Cox has been with the Lansing Meals on Wheels program for two years. Cox is a senior, and she encourages other senior volunteers to assist in providing support. “A lot of people we have working for us are in their 80s and 90s. I drive sometimes,” she says. Jo Ann Kijewski is another Meals on Wheels volunteer; she serves as a coordinator who assists Siersema in facilitating kitchen assignments such as cooks, bakers, the prep team, and the drivers. Cathy Mann serves as the treasurer on Cox’s team. Cox says there is a desperate need for more volunteers to help with the program, especially dessert coordinators and drivers.

About Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels began in the United Kingdom as a food insecurity program for citizens who had lost their homes due to World War II. The program also fed members of the armed forces during the war. In 1954, Meals on Wheels gained worldwide momentum and made its way to the United States, spreading to Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, Michigan, and other states. In 1974, Meals on Wheels became a government-funded program.

To find out more about Lansing’s Meals on Wheels program, contact First United Methodist Church in Lansing at 18420 Burnham Avenue, or call 708-895-0388.

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