An Early Partner in This Historic Program
Sometime in the spring of 2013, Forsyth County's Meals-on-Wheels program will celebrate the delivery of its 5 millionth meal.
It all began with six meals delivered in September 1962 that had been prepared in the cafeteria of NC Baptist Hospital amid a partnership forged between the county, Wake Forest Baptist Church and volunteers such as Hellen Prichard, whose husband, Dr. Robert Prichard, was a longtime pathology professor and chairman of pathology for Bowman Gray School of Medicine.
"It was a great joy to help start the Meals-on-Wheels program in Forsyth County in 1962 with the help of Wake Forest Baptist Church and many other community volunteers,'' says Prichard, who last November delivered a meal during a 50th anniversary celebration of Meals-on-Wheels with NASCAR legend Richard Petty.
"The first day, we delivered meals to five local seniors,'' Prichard says. "It is remarkable that 50 years later, the program is still going strong.''
One reason the program has survived for so long-it's the third oldest in the nation-is that its simple goals continue to this day. They are to deliver the aged and shut-ins a balanced diet that prevents malnutrition and allows them to remain in their own home, and to provide a visit, however brief, by the volunteer delivering the meal.
Today, this latter element of Meals-on-Wheels remains as important as the idea of delivering a nutritious meal, says Richard Gottlieb, president and CEO of Senior Services, Inc., who is going on 32 years with the organization.
"It's truly remarkable, the interactions and the social capital, the relationships that form,'' he says. "Volunteers would not meet and get to know these folks without the program and vice versa.''
One of the hallmarks of Meals-on-Wheels is the ability of the volunteers, who typically drive the same routes and get to know the meal recipients, to report changes in health should they spot something unusual. Meals-on-Wheels volunteers frequently are the people who can pave the way for early intervention of a problem affecting a homebound person.
"As a foot in the door, it's a great way to assess a person's situation and to arrange for other community-based services,'' Gottlieb says. "For example, we're partnering now with Wake Forest Baptist on a fall prevention program.''
On numbers alone, Meals-on-Wheels reaches and involves a staggering number of people.
- 1,224 homebound elderly receive hot or frozen meals each day.
- 1,713 volunteers deliver the meals through 89 routes.
- More than 250,000 meals are delivered every year.
"It's a very important way that the community can organize itself to reach out to those in need,'' Gottlieb says. "There's no question that Meals-on-Wheels would not be here without the faith community and individuals and foundations that support it.''