By Wendy Coschignano Ford on Thursday, July 4, 2024

The Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) has provided numerous food assistance programs to the Osceola community for more than 53 years, going back to 1971. In 1975, our efforts resulted in the OCOA becoming a designated Meals on Wheels (MOW) provider.

Over the past five decades, as our community has grown in population, the need for additional nutrition assistance social service programs has also grown. In recognition of this need, we began offering congregate dining meal services through the OCOA Dining Club. We added food pantries in Kissimmee and St. Cloud. The MOW program presently supports more than 2,000 Osceola households, delivering nearly five million meals to residents since its inception!

As our MOW program has evolved, we have served an increased number of seniors, and disabled adults, who without this program would likely lack proper nutrition. In 2023, MOW delivered nearly 200,000 meals while providing two million pounds of food from our combined food pantries.

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 largest regions. The program is an everexpanding operation and costly undertaking, which is why our local fundraising events, community partnerships, and volunteers are such an integral part of the MOW initiative.

To date, we have over 320 active volunteers who served more than 30,000 hours to support our agency in 2023. A considerable amount of those volunteers who work to support the MOW mission include 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, along with a multitude of community members and volunteer organizations. With that said, we are currently seeking additional volunteer drivers to deliver meals for routes in Celebration, Kissimmee, and St. Cloud.

As mentioned earlier, our MOW program is a ‘nutritional necessity’ for most seniors, but we also consider the program a ‘social necessity’ for many of those same seniors, as a sizable proportion live alone. The program helps volunteers better forge relationships with clients, which also provides a consistent avenue to stay in regular contact and communication.

Anyone 60 and over who is physically or mentally unable to prepare a balanced meal, and/or has no one to prepare meals, is eligible to apply for MOW. Donations are welcome and sponsorships are available. A $10 minimum donation will feed a senior for one day with two meals.

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity within the Osceola community and would like to support local seniors, please consider joining our volunteer team to deliver meals. By simply donating a couple of volunteer hours per week will help us meet the strenuous demand of delivering meals to 350 clients.

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

Finally, for our existing MOW volunteers, thank you for your kind, compassionate, and generous service to our beloved Osceola seniors!