CW: Thanks for joining me Lisa, we’re very excited to be putting on the Napper Tandys Flyer to benefit Norwood Meals on Wheels and we’re trying to get as many runners as we can to come down to support the cause.
LD: As will we
CW: So I’m just going to begin with some basic questions about Norwood Meals on Wheels. How many people do you serve in a year?
LD: In a year we can serve anywhere from 5,000-8,000 meals a year, which for us is huge because we’re only providing services in Norwood. A lot of those numbers represent the regulars who we have 5 days a week, but we have a lot of different types of clientele that come on and off the program throughout the year.
CW: How did this program get started?
LD: In 1975 one of the churches in Norwood noticed that there was a need. There were people that were home bound, whether it was due to surgery, the New England weather, not having their license anymore, who didn't have access to shop and couldn't prepare meals for themselves. So the church started the program and provided meal to those in Norwood. The state subsidizes many other similar programs but we decided to stay in Norwood. Some of the state mandated programs have age and health requirements but we have no age requirements. Our only requirement is that you have the need. No age requirement is huge for us because a lot of our people might be people with disabilities, such as the mentally impaired adults that are able to work but not able to cook for themselves at home, so it’s one less worry for them and their families during their day.
CW: How many people are on your staff?
LD: We have approximately 30-35 people and they’re all volunteers. I coordinate with them and everyday we have two packers that go down to the Ellis and prepare our meals These volunteers will take care of all of the logistical stuff and I send down a packet to the Ellis with all of the labels and requirements for people, including any of their dietary needs. Everybody gets an individual meal, even if it’s for example a husband and wife at the same house because they most likely have different restrictions. We have 3 volunteer drivers that come in to drive the three geographical routes to deliver the meals. That rotates each day, so when a volunteer commits it usually about an hour to an hour and a half a week, and it’s usually the same day every week. Many of our volunteers themselves are retired and they might do other things so they can have their set day that they work giving them their schedule so that’s great.
CW: So let’s go back in time, if you could tell me how you got involved in the program?
LD: I was asked to take the position from a friend of the family. It’s such a fabulous program that it was hard for me to say no. The majority of the work I do from home and so it fits well into my life. Everybody with the exception of me, are volunteers. I couldn't do it without them, I really couldn't.
CW: It sounds like a team effort. Could you talk now about how is this program funded?
LD: We are funded by private donations and grants. The Ellis charges us for the meals, so we in turn, unfortunately, do have a fee that we charge our recipients. We used to get a huge grant from the United Way however, their funding criteria kind of changed. Our budget is a shoestring budget, we don’t do a lot in the press per say because we don’t have a marketing budget. The one thing we do is we put inserts in the electric bills. We’ll get donations from the town. We always get a very generous contribution from Norwood Bank every year. Aside from those organizations and companies, we supplement with grants that come along and really the generosity of the town.
CW: So over the time that you've worked with Norwood Meals on Wheels I assume you've seen an increase in demand for your services. What does the future look like for the program and your population in need?
LD: I think that our services will always have a place in the community.. The demand constantly changes. It’s always a program that fluctuates, sometimes you are bursting at the seams with people and then you pull back a little. We just had one women who stopped the program because she had to go into assisted living full time, she had Alzheimer’s, but her daughter wrote a very lovely note and she was able to get maybe another year, year and a half in her own home because of the program. The meal component is really important with Alzheimer’s because of the forgetfulness, sometimes they just forget that they have to cook. People use us for various reasons. We just had someone come on because she had arm surgery, so she may be one of those people that are short term, she has her couple months, or she may decide, “you know what? I really like this. This is really helpful to me” and maybe just cut back to a couple of days a week. That’s why I think that the need is always there for us--our terms are flexible and we have no age limitations.
CW: I imagine you’ve helped and have gotten to know a lot of people doing this type of work. Do you have any special memory or any special person who sticks in your mind?
LD: I do, I do. Gosh I have so many, they’re all so wonderful. I do fondly remember a woman who was real tough to crack at first. She was kind of aloof, but somehow we got to talking about how she was from Lithuania, and my grandmother is Lithuanian, so once I shared that with her, she became my best friend. She was a favorite of mine and I remember as the sweetest, nicest woman ever. There was one other gentleman, who was a charmer, and someone told me he had owned racehorses. I shared this with my dad he said “I went to school with someone who owned a racehorse, he was always trying to charm the ladies”. When I heard his name I almost fell over because it was this same man my dad went to school with.
CW: What a small world.
LD: Yeah, you miss them. You miss them when they go.
CW: Now walk me through a day in the life of the Meals on Wheels director. How do you start your day?
LD: Every day I get up and I check the messages on the phone at the Ellis and then I prepare the list of all our recipients for that day. Then I’ll call the packers and tell them the recipients so they know who to not deliver a meal to that day. Then I will call the drivers and let them know if there are any changes to their route and if there’s anyone new. Then depending on how the day unfolds, on Tuesdays I help pack the meals, I’ll usually check the messages and do the billing once a month. I’m always looking for grants and writing thank you notes, sending out letters and soliciting donations. Sometimes I drive or train new drivers. The beauty of the job is that no two days are alike. When adjustments need to be made, like if a driver can’t come in, I’ll have to move things around.
CW: Now, here’s the big question: How does one get involved with this organization either as a volunteer or a recipient of the services you provide?
LD: Just call our main number 781-769-9061 and leave a message. I promise to return your call. A lot folks find us by word of mouth. A lot of our volunteers have come to us very randomly and they are great people. We have to run a CORI check and then train you, and then you are good to go.