The Lexington Meals on Wheels project was started at Second Presbyterian Church in 1969. In 1968, the members of the Women’s Association of Second Presbyterian Church were looking for a project where they could make use of their time and their church building and do something for people to make our community better. Barbara Robertson, wife of Second’s pastor, had hands-on experience in Baltimore with the Meals on Wheels organization that was the “mother unit” for all those in the United States. She suggested such a service. She had the manual, sample menus, sample forms for interviewing clients, some recipes, and guidelines for equipment that the Women’s Association would need to start Meals on Wheels in Lexington. Barbara Rahenkamp made the motion at the 1969 congregational meeting that Second Presbyterian organize a service called Meals on Wheels. She was vital to development of the service and was co-chairman with Barbara Robertson for many years as the service grew. Louise Sprague symbolized the community worker who had the energy to contact people in the Health Department and to talk with doctors, nurses and community people about the feasibility of such a service. She had connections with publicity people, social workers, and a variety of others. She also served as treasurer for many years.
Meals on Wheels started on October 27, 1969, in Barbara Robertson’s kitchen serving five clients. Shortly afterward, the renovation of the kitchen at Second was completed, and meals have been prepared and packed there ever since, except the year Second’s new kitchen was being constructed and Temple Adath Israel hosted the service. Rotating menus with balanced nutritional meals were planned and monitored by Marion Webster from Second Church and Helen Ward from Trinity Hill United Methodist.
As the MOW project grew, Louise Sprague brought in the help of the Fayette County Medical Auxiliary to deliver diabetic and low sodium diets from Good Samaritan Hospital in 1973. Gardenside Christian Church opened a kitchen in 1972 and for several years prepared and delivered meals. Trinity Hill United Methodist and Trinity Baptist Churches added their kitchens in 1979. Each kitchen served a specific geographic area in Lexington. In 1982, St. Joseph Hospital joined to expand the special diet service; however, this service has since been discontinued. In 1983 when the Lexington Senior Citizens Center opened, Meals on Wheels established a central office there with a part-time paid assistant. Nancy Ehmann was the founding volunteer Chair of Meals on Wheels of Lexington, Inc. for over 20 years, coordinating the services provided through the various church and hospital kitchens. Betsy Strong followed Nancy for several years and Melissa LeVine now serves as Chair.
Meals on Wheels is a unique humanitarian program inspired by the desire to help solve the problems of those unable to live at home without help. There are no age or income restrictions. The only qualification for participation in the program is the inability to shop, cook and prepare your own meals.
Meals on Wheels of Lexington serves over 200 clients daily out of three church kitchens: Second Presbyterian, Trinity Hill United Methodist and Trinity Baptist. Clients’ fees almost cover the cost of groceries. The delivery includes enough for three meals: a hot dinner of meat and vegetables which clients are encouraged to eat right away; a sack supper of a sandwich, juice and either a cookie or pudding; and the next morning’s breakfast of cereal, milk and a slice of bread. Meals are delivered five days a week including holidays.
Only the church cooks and the part-time assistant at the program’s headquarters at the Lexington Senior Citizens Center are paid. The clients pay nominal fees, and no government funds are received. Client fees do not cover the full cost of providing the meals, so donations are important for sustaining the program. The program receives funding from the Lillian Edwards Foundation (set up by the late Lillian Edwards, a former Meals on Wheels client) and donations from a variety of sources. For example, in 2011 at Second Presbyterian, the auction of Doreen Tetzlaff’s hats provided almost $1400 to fund Meals on Wheels. Each year a Mothers’ Day offering provides about $2000 for Meals on Wheels. Families often ask that contributions be made to Meals on Wheels in memory of their loved ones. We thank those who have donated funds over the years to sustain this mission!
Sincere gratitude goes to the thousands of loyal volunteers that have kept this program going for over 43 years. Today, Second Presbyterian, Trinity Baptist, and Trinity Hill United Methodist Churches each have almost 100 volunteers working 1½ to 3 hours per week packing and delivering meals to about 60 clients every weekday. Others serve on the Board coordinating Meals on Wheels with the central office. Many have given years of dedicated, joyful service to this program. Volunteers, the backbone of the program, serve a two-fold purpose. They pack and deliver the meals, and by their friendly visits furnish a daily outside contact. In some cases, this may be the only person the client sees or talks to during the day.
Call the Meals on Wheels central office at 276-5391 if you or someone you know is interested in receiving meals or if you would be interested in volunteering to pack or deliver meals on a regular or substitute basis.