WeCAN's Meals on Wheels Program

WeCAN’s Meals on Wheels program offers food, conversation and opportunities for the volunteers who make it a success.
Volunteer driver Robert Carlson delivers a meal to Bruce Peterson

There really isn’t much that trumps a hot meal and some fine conversation. And if you happen to live alone or far from loved ones, that just makes those things all the more special. The Western Communities Action Networks Inc. (WeCAN) and their Meals on Wheels program aim to make sure their clients get ample helpings of both.

The program serves folks in St. Bonifacius, Mound, Spring Park, Minnetonka Beach, Minnetrista, Maple Plain, Orono, Independence, Loretto, and parts of Tonka Bay. It got its start when two couples from the Mound area saw a need and started cooking extra meals in one of their kitchens.

“I was there several times, and you can’t believe how small that kitchen was and all of the meals they were making in there,” says Meals on Wheels program coordinator Carolyn Dillon. “It was unbelievable.”

Meals on Wheels was picked up by WeCAN in 1974 and now, some 35 years later, approximately 40 clients receive 140 hand-delivered meals per week by a cadre of 80 volunteers.

“Our program is set up for three main purposes, and the volunteers are instrumental in making sure those are realized,” Dillon says. “We deliver a hot, delicious meal that’s been made fresh daily; we conduct a well check; and we take the time for friendly visiting.”

She continues, “For a lot of families nowadays, the husbands and wives both work and they often don’t have the time to visit loved ones every day, so this gives everyone some peace of mind. And it makes the clients and the volunteers feel wonderful.”

Dillon states that besides delivering the freshly made meals that cost $5 for a dinner-sized portion, there are myriad ways folks can get involved.

For example, she’s had people drop off gifts to be handed out to the clients, donate pet food and even seen growers provide fresh vegetables. During the holidays, folks have offered chocolate and peanuts, and school children have made handprint turkey bags—always a favorite of the clients. Dillon also pointed out there is an immediate need for large coolers and freezer packs to be used in the event a client is away so they can still have meals delivered to their home.

“It’s really fun how people can get involved,” says Dillon. “Since the program has never been self-sustaining, we love when people are willing to give of their time or anything else.”

And as it turns out, like most things in life, it’s just as meaningful for those who give as those who receive. For Robert Carlson, a Meals on Wheels deliverer for 14 years, it’s about the camaraderie and the connection with clients he visits on a regular basis.

“One gentleman named Ed, who was over 100, would chat with me for as long as I’d stand there,” Carlson says. “In fact, I made him my last stop so we could talk. I even brought him some pickled foods from time to time. He grew up on a farm and had lots of pickled foods growing up so he really loved them.”

Tom Notch, a driver for three years, often likes to kibitz with his clients while he hands over the chicken, beef or turkey.

“I enjoy visiting with our community’s older residents who are always willing to laugh at my jokes,” he says. “I feel it’s important to help our fellow community members stay in their homes and be able to enjoy a nutritious meal at least once a day.”

Get involved with Meals on Wheels by emailing mealsonwheels@wecan-help.org.