The way George Larson sees it, every time Western Senior Services must spend money to repair a vehicle, it is money that doesn’t go to the people they serve.
Western Senior Services, which operates a meals on wheels program, was able to purchase a commercial delivery vehicle earlier this year with the help of a $10,000 grant from South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF).
“Our old vehicle was no longer reliable and we wanted something with larger capacity,” said Executive Director George Larson. “We wanted something that when we turn the key, it starts.”
The MEALS Program provides hot, nutritious meals to 20 communities throughout western South Dakota. Participants can take part in the program by visiting a dining site, or receiving delivered meals by volunteers at home. Every weekday, the program provides a nutritious noon meal to about 965 people. More than 1,500 people are served throughout the year.
For meals that are served to homes, volunteers drive each day. Meals that are delivered to dining sites are transferred in the new delivery truck, which was purchased about six months ago and recently delivered its 100,000th meal. “The program is quickly growing,” Larson said. “It helps people stay in their home, stay safe and stay connected to their community.”
That’s the beauty of this program—it’s about providing a meal and companionship. Volunteers not only deliver a meal, but check on the safety and welfare of the participant. “As we get older, we have more needs,” he added. “Having family is great, but they can’t always check every day.”
MEALS volunteers get to know the people they serve and are likely to notice if something isn’t right, Larson said. More so, it’s an interaction for people who receive few or no visitors. “It makes all the difference in the world.”
Having the support of organizations like SDCF is critical, he added. “If we didn’t have that support, we wouldn’t be able to help additional people,” he said. “It makes a huge difference.”
The tag line for the MEALS Program is “together, we can deliver,” Larson noted, and the delivery truck purchase is a good example of that.