Meals On Wheels Helps People in Need

By Manjula Vasant Germanwala     

Manjula Germanwala grew up in Mumbai, India.  She lives in Greentree for over thirty-five years. She is active in many cultural and social organizations. 

The organization is called Meals On Wheels (MOW). How did it get this name?  In 1939, during World War II, the Germans bombed England. Many people became homeless. So a group of women volunteers responded by preparing and delivering meals to their disadvantaged neighbors. These women also brought refreshments to servicemen during the war. This group eventually became known as Meals on Wheels, the first organized nutrition program for delivering food.

The Lutheran Service Society (LSS), the largest provider of this type of service in Western Pennsylvania, brought the MOW concept in the Tri-state area in 1968. This organization, through its volunteers, strives to provide independence and dignity to the homebound elderly and disabled people by delivering two meals during the weekdays directly to their homes. They even try to accommodate individual special dietary needs such as low sodium, diabetic, and low cholesterol diets.

MOW takes place in our neighborhood churches. They have a special cook who follows the LSS rules and regulations according to the meal plan. Some volunteers provide the service of packing food and work in the kitchen. Other volunteers deliver the food and are on the road.

Volunteers working for Meals on Wheels help in many ways:  Working in the kitchen,  informing people that the kitchen is closed in inclement weather, delivering the food, and donating fruits, cakes, cookies, etc. to the people in need.

How did I get to join the group?  I worked for a commercial book store for many years. I felt it was like a Saraswati Mandir.  Once I had a customer who used to volunteer for MOW. She gave me lots of information about this altruistic group.

When my bookstore closed down due to a business decision, I had lots of time on my hand.  One day I went to a church where they were providing a MOW program.  The manager was searching for volunteering help, specifically with delivering food two days per week. This was convenient for me. I went on my assigned days and met my driver, a sweet person, who was also retired. Over the last four years, I started helping in the kitchen. I also go to other churches which have similar programs and deliver additional food.

This kitchen is run professionally taking all the precautions and care for preparing nutritious food hygienically. Once a year, there is even a party for the volunteers!

Working as a volunteer for MOW, I have come across so many good people. I made some new friends, especially when I deliver food. I met many senior citizens who are so eager to tell you their problems. I listen to them very quietly. We laugh and we cry together.

MOW delivers two meals to each individual at a time.  One is in a brown bag which contains milk, juice, fruits, sandwiches, cookies, and other snacks I also include copies of short stories for them to read while eating. They love to read. The other box contains a hot meal made with meat, vegetables, and a side dish. The kitchen staff makes sure that the meal is well balanced.

When the weather is really bad, we occasionally provide an extra meal in anticipation with nonperishable items which is called a storm kit. When I come home, I feel very happy for doing something good.

I love to be in contact with people. I hope Providence gives me the strength to do good work for many more years. It takes only about five hours per week.  I wish we can have a similar program for our Indian community seniors. I am afraid, we may be approaching the situation in which we will need an organization like this for the Indian community. 

When we do something good for others we feel good. Working week by week, these individuals and even the volunteers become a part of you. Once in a while my son Anand and my granddaughter Arya join me in delivering food.

If anyone wants to know about volunteering to Meals on Wheels, here are the contact details:

The Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania

3171 Babcock Blvd.

Pittsburgh, PA 15237-2737

Website:     Phone:  412-366-9490

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