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Meals on Wheels agencies plan to rely more on donations

Discovery School students deliver MOW
Discovery School 5/6 graders deliver Meals on Wheels

The State of Washington has cut six percent of funding for Meals on Wheels in Spokane County—about $25,000, said Mollie Dalpae, director of Mid-City Concerns/Meals on Wheels in Spokane.

“We have been told to brace for more cuts, so we have decided to expand our fund raising efforts through mailings and Valentine’s Day Cinn-a-Grams,” she said.

“It’s heart wrenching that someone who commits a crime and goes to prison has three meals a day, while someone who has worked hard all his or her life, and maybe also served in the military has only one meal and may face having that cut,” she said.

“Our goal is that by 2015, we will not have to depend on the ebb and flow of state funding,” Mollie said.  “It will be an adjustment, because it’s a chunk of money.”

In November, the state said Meals on Wheels had reached its allotment of meals and would be on its own the rest of the year.

“No one can run a good business with that uncertainty,” she said.

Mid-City Concerns/Meals on Wheels delivers a hot meal a day, Mondays through Fridays and frozen meals for the weekend to 230 to 270 people.

From a recent survey of meal recipients, they learned that 76 percent live alone, 44 percent have income of less than $1,000 a month, 78 percent have two or fewer meals a day, 54 percent rarely eat with someone else and 43 percent are over 80 years old.

Volunteers who deliver the food each day talk with each person for a few minutes and are attentive to their needs, also delivering birthday, Valentine, Christmas and other cards, blankets for the winter and fans for the summer.

“We provide a moment of grace for people who are otherwise isolated,” Mollie said.  “Some send cards to the volunteers to express their gratitude.”

Volunteers also provide safety checks, as well as emotional and social support.

Discovery School students load baskets
Discovery School students load baskets to take meals inside.

Some businesses allow staff to go out and deliver meals.

About 30 churches recruit volunteers to deliver meals on a rotation basis one to two days a month.  Two volunteers do each route.  One drives and the other takes the food to the door.

Volunteers come to pick up the meals between 10:45 and 11 a.m. at the Downtown Senior Center, 1222 W. Second.  Meals on Wheels delivers to Avista for employees to deliver and to a North Central Spokane church.  Volunteers come there to pick up for routes in East and North Spokane.

Volunteers also deliver meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

More than 750 volunteers are in the network.

Sixty seniors come to the Downtown Senior Center for lunch Mondays through Fridays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Those who go there are 24 percent homeless and 99 percent below the poverty line.

That senior center and 11 other centers in the program face cuts.

The centers served more than 24,000 meals for the year ending in July.

From her youth, Mollie helped care for seniors.  Her grandmother would visit friends and neighbors, and invite them to her house.

“I was always around seniors, so when I decided to study sociology and learned I could study gerontology as part of that field, I did that,” she said.

Many seniors are isolated and lonely because they have outlived spouses and children, and because neighbors have moved, she said. Most are determined to stay in their own homes.

Mollie explained that their decision to stay at home saves the state money.

“One month of Meals on Wheels meals costs the same as half a day in a nursing home,” she said.  “When the state cuts funds for meals, it loses more in the long run.”

Mollie is in the senior center each day and does a route every week.

In earlier times, we knew our neighbors and were interdependent,” she said.  “We did not have cars and TVs which keep us apart.  We visited neighbors, rather than watching TV or listening to the radio.  The sense of isolation increases as neighborhoods that people moved into 30 to 40 years ago deteriorate.

“Many fear falling because they do not see well, but know there are cracks in the sidewalks,” she said.  “So they stay in.  There are also few neighborhood stores.”

Volunteers know the people they visit, because the same volunteers deliver meals to the same people.  That way, they will notice a change in just a few minutes of visiting.  The routes are small, serving just eight to 11 people, to facilitate visiting and completing the route in an hour.

“Some have volunteered for years,” she said.  “Some who once delivered meals go to the senior centers or receive Meals on Wheels now.”

The Mid-City Senior Center in Spokane opened in 1963, and Meals on Wheels began in 1967.

The Regional Health District has administered the program on contract with Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington.   Several downtown Spokane churches started the programs, which operated out of Central United Methodist Church for many years.

For information, call 456-6597 or visit

Copyright © December 2010 - The Fig Tree