Published Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) has managed our local Meals on Wheels (MOW) program in Osceola County since 1971, with more than five million meals served to residents since its inception. As the MOW program has evolved and exponentially expanded, we have been able to serve an increased number of seniors, who without this program, would likely lack proper nutrition.

In 2022 alone, MOW delivered more than 190,000 meals, while providing two million pounds of food from both our Kissimmee and St. Cloud food pantry locations. My message in writing about our Meals on Wheels program, for this column, is not only to explain its “nutritional necessity” within our community, but also its “social necessity.”

“Our Meals on Wheels program is not simply about delivering meals to make sure our residents do not go hungry,” said Wilda Belisle, OCOA Senior Vice President of Meals on Wheels & Dining Clubs. “Sure, the nutritional side of the program is so very important, but the social side is invaluable.”

For those who know Wilda, our MOW program would not be what it is today without her resilience, compassion, and love for both the nutritional mission of fighting senior hunger in our community, but the MOW recipients themselves.

“It is amazing how a simple knock at the door from a Meals on Wheels volunteer can make the day for a senior. The volunteers bring more than just a meal; they bring the power of a warm smile and a genuine heart, creating a meaningful connection,” Belisle added.

In addition, a sizable proportion of our MOW clients live alone, so the program not only helps our volunteers forge relationships to better oversee those vulnerable seniors, but also stay in consistent contact and communication with them.

On a national basis, Meals on Wheels America supports more than 5,000 communities across the United States, with Osceola County being one of the larger regions, serving nearly 30,000 meals each month. With these numbers, one can see the program is an ever-expanding operation with a costly undertaking, and why our fundraising events, volunteers, and community partners are such an essential part of the program.

Presently, we have well more than 150 volunteers who work daily to support this mission: including realtors from the Osceola Association of Realtors and the Solivita Group, volunteers from the Rotary Club of Kissimmee West, the Osceola County Supervisors of Elections, and the Property Appraiser’s office.

Accordingly, we are in a constant effort to recruit added MOW volunteers to not only support the program but also deliver meals. As an example, we presently have need of at least 15 volunteer drivers for our Kissimmee delivery routes, as well as an additional seven drivers to deliver meals in St. Cloud.

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity within the Osceola community and would like to support our seniors, please consider joining our volunteer team to deliver meals for our MOW program. You will find it highly rewarding as you spread “smiles and social graces” to those in our community who cannot survive without our MOW program.

For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact Nora Ghazi, Meals on Wheels Supervisor and Volunteer Coordinator, at 407-933-9527.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, CLICK HERE