Mobile Meals builds community and connects with vulnerable adults
Some of the most heart-warming community building happens on a one-to-one basis, connecting the most vulnerable neighbors among us with caring individuals. This is the magic of Mobile Meals of Wenatchee, a pint-sized, humble nonprofit that is powered by the collaborative, compassionate spirit of a many people and organizations in this valley.
The long-time drivers include a who’s who of community contributors, such as Mary Kintner, Helen Kjobech, Ann Gaspers, Verna Heinicke, Arlene Jones, Bev Hammond, Jim and Dorothy Thompson, Fred and Ann Deal, LaVonne and Bill Kiehn, Caitlin and Walter Newman, Bob and Betty Fries, Jim and Judy Jensen, Pat Ogburn and Fran McMonigle.
The impetus for starting Mobile Meals of Wenatchee came from the wives of two prominent doctors, Carolyn Smith and Alice Stojowski. Their husbands, Dr. Von Smith and Dr. Al Stojowski, had commented that some patients they were sending home from the hospital were struggling to prepare meals following surgery or illness, Briggs said.
Soon, the organization was launched with St. Anthony’s Hospital providing the meals and 40 or so volunteer drivers delivering the hot meals to homes in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. That first year, Mobile Meals delivered 5,000 meals. Now they are delivering from 80 to 100 meals a day, Kearny said, which translates to more than 25,000 deliveries a year.
When Briggs and her husband moved back to the valley in 1987, her mother recruited her as a driver and she has been connected with the organization ever sense, rising to the position of coordinator seven years ago. In those early days of driving, she recalled, she would have her young kids ride along and help deliver meals. The recipients, she said, were “thrilled to see the children” as well as receive the hot meal.
Mobile Meals is a labor of love for the volunteers that allows many people in our valley to stay in their homes rather than go to assisted living facilities either on a short or long-term basis. The smiling face at the door is without a doubt as impactful as the nutritionally appropriate hot meal. Briggs told me about a recent recipient who was in tears when the volunteer visited. The volunteer alerted the Briggs and they followed up with the person’s family to make sure she was OK. These small but important contributions are what make our valley a special place to live. Caring for those who are less fortunate is part of the DNA of our communities.
Another thing to love about Mobile Meals of Wenatchee is that the program is funded and supported entirely with local contributions. The biggest supporter is Confluence Health, which provides the meals at a reduced cost. Other significant supporters have been Local Tel Communications, the Community Foundation, United Way, the Follies Guild, and a number of service clubs, churches and individuals make contributions. The Numerica Performing Arts Center donates space for a fundraising concert every March, Kearny noted. Eastmont School District teacher Jody Leonard had her students help create the website.
Kearny and Briggs showed me the power of grass-roots community building in service of helping the most vulnerable people among us. We can do a more effective job of taking ownership of the well being of our neighbors if we follow the lead of Mobile Meals of Wenatchee.
I was touched when Kearny talked about the humbling power of connecting with people in the valley who are struggling and the softening of the heart that happens. For Briggs, connecting to people in the community that she otherwise would never know has enriched her life.
Drivers for Mobile Meals typically volunteer once a month and the routes take an hour or so, so the time commitment is reasonable. They can always use more funding and volunteers. Briggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact her if you know someone who is physically unable to cook and needs the assistance.