Meals on Wheels Delivers Food for the Body and the Soul
Dedication and kindness abound in the
busy kitchen at First Unitarian Church
on Shaker Boulevard. Five mornings
a week, a group of longtime volunteer
with Meals on Wheels (MOW) gathers to
prepare and deliver food to homebound
residents in Shaker Heights, University
Heights, and Beachwood.
The mission of MOW is simple:
To keep people from being hungry.
“Volunteers take that mission very
seriously,” says Director Penny Parker.
This year, the organization is
celebrating 35 years of food delivery in
these three communities, which together
have the highest concentration of seniors
on the East Side. Due to its small size, the
Shaker organization is unaffiliated with
the national Meals on Wheels program
and therefore not connected to a food
pantry. It is a 501(c)3 and sustained by
generous donations, sponsorships, and
clients who pay just $6.75 per day for
David Osage, president and CEO
of Equity Engineering Group, Inc. in
Shaker Heights, is proud to be the first
corporate sponsor for Meals on Wheels
Shaker. “We hope that our support will
go a long way toward helping Meals
on Wheels Shaker grow and provide
services to our excellent community.
Nutrition is essential to Shaker Heights,
Beachwood, and University Heights
residents in need, and we will do our
best to help MOW achieve this goal.”
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Through a partnership with the McGregor retirement community in East
Cleveland, clients receive a complete hot lunch consisting of a protein, starch,
vegetable, and dessert. Volunteers package and heat individual meals each day in
the kitchen of First Unitarian Church and deliver them to clients’ doors piping hot
and ready to eat. In addition, clients receive a light supper that does not need to
be heated. It consists of a sandwich, bread and butter, fruit, and a beverage. Parker
says there is often enough food to cover three meals for clients. The food is fresh
and lovingly assembled by volunteers who work hard to accommodate dietary
requirements whenever possible.
Key to the success of the Meals on Wheels program is the dedicated volunteer
crew. In Shaker, there are five teams, one for each day of the week. Some volunteers
do meal prep only, others are drivers, and a few do both jobs. Some have been
volunteering for decades. The requirement is minimal, just one or two hours, one
day a week, but the rewards are big, which explains why there are so many long-term
volunteers. Laura Rowan, board member and volunteer for 14 years, says MOW is
“such a simple way to know that I'm making a difference.”
Drivers get to know the clients on their route and provide a critical daily check
and connection for those who are homebound. If needed, “We know how to handle
emergencies,” says Parker. In most cases, though, it is just a daily connection and a
quick chat that provide as much sustenance to clients as the food that is delivered.
Currently, the program serves 34 clients, but can accommodate up to about 70.
There is no age limit or income limit to be eligible to subscribe. The only requirement
is the need for meal delivery due to being homebound, and the ability to pay the
$6.75 per day cost. Long term, Parker hopes to establish an emergency fund to
provide support for those who temporarily cannot afford the daily cost of their
meals, a situation that arises regularly.
To celebrate their 35th anniversary, Parker is focused on reintroducing the
organization to the community to help expand its reach to clients and to build
its volunteer corps. She is busy making connections to other organizations and
co-sponsoring events like the senior lunches offered through the Shaker Heights
Recreation Department to make sure those who need meals are aware of the service.
If you or someone you know are in need of delivered meals, or are interested in
volunteering, please call 216-991-6376 or check the recently refreshed website at