One of the nation’s largest programs assisting elderly residents in area communities is now extending its reach in the Katy area.
Interfaith Ministries’ Greater Houston Meals on Wheels program has recently come upon partnerships with several entities within the Katy community who have chosen to assist the program in providing meals to the area’s seniors in need.
“I was surprised. I thought I’d be lucky to get one or two meals a week and that would be wonderful, but I’m getting five a week–that is really amazing,” said Laura Ann Provast, 84, who got on the program following a friend’s recommendation.
As with most Meals on Wheels programs, Greater Houston Meals on Wheels provides hot meals five days a week for most clients, as well as frozen meals for clients in need of a weekend meal. They also provide a breakfast bag to particularly frail seniors and perform daily wellness checks, most of which come face to face by a volunteer or staff driver.
“Even those that we can’t see every day we have a team of people that will call those seniors to find out what they need,” said Warren Wenner, director of the Greater Houston Meals on Wheels program.
Wenner, a career nonprofit worker, retired from the Boy Scouts after 34 years before ascending to his current position two and a half years ago, saying he desired to simply do something different in the nonprofit world. He noted that the program’s reach in Katy has been somewhat hindered in years past due to the sheer travel distance required for full service.
“We’ve been in Katy for years, but it’s been somewhat limited service,” he said. “Most of the people in Katy were getting frozen meals and some were getting breakfast meals, but we were mostly depending on a staff driver to go up there.”
“Having a new relationship with the Katy volunteers has been great for the seniors up there,” he added.
Wenner noted the organization currently has 86 volunteers, but added that there remains a great need for more, as the program still lacks the manpower to adequately serve every client each day. Less than half of the seniors currently on the program actually receive hot meals daily.
“Currently we have 51 of 117 seniors that are getting hot meals. The others are still getting frozen meals, so we need to at least double that amount of volunteers to be able to provide hot meals for all of them,” he said. “We provide the meals and we provide the client services, but as far as having enough bodies to take every meal every day, we’re still looking.”
Banks, faith organizations and other nonprofits in the Katy area have been vital in the program extending its reach within the community. One of the larger subsets which has assisted the program has been local National Charity League chapters according to Manager of Volunteer Services Hannah Weier. Involved chapters include the Chapter of Katy, Star Chapter, Azalea Chapter and Lady Bird Chapter.
“We’re having quite a few volunteers from those chapters that are maintaining their commitment to serving these seniors,” Weier said.
The First United Methodist Church of Katy has been another backbone of Meals on Wheels’ operation in the area. Wenner said the church has had a similar outreach program for about two decades, but it lacked the client services provided by most Meals on Wheels programs, with the residents sometimes having to fund their meals.
“Because we receive funds from the state through the Area Agency on Aging (AAA), we come with some great ways to make sure the food is handled in a safe manner,” he said. “We bring some of the professionalism and things that they hadn’t had before such as with the client services.”
Just as much emphasis is put on catering to the seniors’ health as on the act of making the delivery according to Wenner.
“Every day, we’re delivering 1/3 of the daily intake requirement for a senior, so we’re also making the diet is what a senior would need to,” he said. “It’s not just for getting a hot meal, it’s one of the dieticians looking out for that.” Weier echoed those words.
“With us receiving funds from the local AAA, we’re required to meet certain expectations explained in the Texas Administrative Code,” she explained. Some of these expectations include keeping food at the right temperature for the right amount of time and ensuring volunteers know proper procedure for handling food and delivering it to seniors safely and on time.
“It’s always about keeping the senior’s health in mind,” Weier said.
For more information or to donate to Interfaith Ministries’ Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston, visit imgh.org/meals-on-wheels.
Source: Your Houston News