RENSSELAER — Thanks to a lot of hard work and determination, people may soon see the return of a “Meals on Wheels” service for those in need of regular home-delivered food.
The Jasper Newton Foundation is already looking for volunteers to drive and deliver healthy meals to their neighbors in the Rensselaer/Jasper County area in the near future.
“Families will be able to contact Northwest Indiana Meals on Wheels eventually to request home-delivered meals if they’re in a situation that requires that,” said Jasper Newton Foundation Executive Director Brienne Hooker.
The first volunteer route will be in the Rensselaer area, but as more volunteers step forward and additional people request meals, the service is expected to expand into northern and southern Jasper County as well.
According to a press release, all the administration of the program will be handled in Merrillville by Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana through a partnership with NWI Community Action.
NWI Meals on Wheels Executive Director Sandy Noe and Volunteer Manager Joan Vith will help facilitate the sign-up of volunteers, training and marketing the program in Jasper County.
Hooker said she’s been in communication with Noe about using NWI Meals on Wheels to replace the local home delivery food service that ended last year. That other service was also called “Meals on Wheels,” but it was not affiliated with NWI Meals on Wheels.
“I reached out when the program was closing here,” Hooker said. “(We were) trying to find a way to get some of these meals paid for so that it didn’t have to be a charge to clients. It’s just taken (Noe) a while to get a grant or an agreement between them and Northwest Indiana Community Action to get some of the meals reimbursed.”
NWI Meals on Wheels has already served as a catering service weekdays at all three Jasper County Community Services facilities for area seniors. Those sites are DeMotte, Rensselaer and Remington.
“Newton County has some home deliveries already, utilizing Northwest Indiana Meals on Wheels,” Hooker said. She remembered that Noe called at around the beginning of this month to say that the home deliveries would be possible.
“Sandy called and said, ‘Hey, I found a way to make this work,’” she recalled. “(She asked) ‘Can we get some volunteers?’”
Since the service is already in the area to a certain extent, the parties involved say it will be easy to get a core group of volunteers to take on the challenge of restarting local home deliveries.
“Meals on Wheels is already driving to our county every day,” Hooker said.
The foundation stated that it is currently partnering with Rensselaer’s First Presbyterian Church, which has opened its doors to be the drop-off location for home delivered meals in Rensselaer. The church will be one spot for all delivery routes to begin and end. As the demand grows, the foundation will be looking for other potential congregations to volunteer to be the drop off point in the DeMotte/Wheatfield area and the Remington area.
A meeting will be in early September to finalize the volunteer group, schedule training and deploy marketing to spread the word for people who need meals.
“It’ll be as quickly as we can after Labor Day,” Hooker said. “I don’t have a date yet.”
The push to re-establish a Meals on Wheels program in the area has been a personal venture for Hooker. Her grandmother, Sharon Hopkins, helped run the program in its former iteration for many years. Hooker herself has typed labels, hand-written bags and delivered meals with her daughter for nearly two years.
Anyone interested in getting more volunteer information is encouraged to contact the foundation at 219-866-5899 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To download a copy of the volunteer application, visit www.jaspernewtonfoundation.org and click on the Get Involved tab. Copies are also available in the foundation office at 301 N Van Rensselaer Street in Rensselaer.
Reasons for needing the Meals on Wheels service may include the following:
• Recovery from surgery or illness after a hospital stay.
• Unable to drive.
• Grocery shopping or cooking are physically difficult tasks.
• Medical requirements for therapeutic meals.
• Daily visit from a delivery driver is a boost to overall feelings of wellness.
• Reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
• Minimize family member’s worry about a loved one being home alone.