Relationships Keep Meals on Wheels Flourishing

SPAN Meals on Wheels

Anyone who believes Meals on Wheels is only about providing food to eligible people throughout Denton County might be surprised to learn it is much more.

“While we focus on the meals, we always say it’s more than the meals. It’s about the contact with our volunteers who develop a real relationship with the people they are delivering to,” said Michelle McMahon, executive director of parent organization SPAN since 2018.

“It’s not just a delivery service like Uber Eats. It’s a relationship. It’s a check-in. It’s making sure they have some eyes on these seniors who maybe don’t connect with anyone during the day. It’s making sure they are okay, and if they spot something that’s not okay, they can take quick action and find the right people to help.”

Besides the social contact, having a daily check-in reassures families who may not live in the area.

“Worse than senior hunger is senior isolation and loneliness,” McMahon said. “It’s more than a meal. It’s an excuse to get in the door and have that social interaction and address that social isolation which was even greater during the pandemic.”

SPAN has served Denton County since 1974. Since then, meals have been delivered to homebound people aged 60 and older or with disabilities. Meals on Wheels also provides free congregate meals to various senior centers. Between October 2021 and October 2022, Meals on Wheels delivered more than 76,500 home meals and 120,000+, including group meals.

Meals are free to eligible participants. Those who apply receive an initial assessment to determine eligibility. Meals are available at senior centers to those who don’t qualify for $5.

COVID-19 kept volunteers from personally visiting people for about 18 months, resuming in August 2021. To maintain contact, they typically called people. Today more than 200 volunteers visit clients county-wide each week.

“The volunteers are some of the most special people I’ve ever met,” McMahon said. “They are selfless. A lot of volunteers themselves are seniors and were at high risk during the pandemic. They are really true heroes. They valued what they were doing above and beyond the fear that comes with the pandemic.”

Meals on Wheels is one of three major SPAN programs. Another offers non-emergency transportation within Denton County that is outside the Denton County Transportation Authority’s Denton to Lewisville service area. And its Senior Paws collects and brings food for the Meals on Wheels clients with pets.

SPAN does receive some funding from the United Way of Denton County, the Texas Veterans’ Commission’s Fund for Veterans’ Assistance, the Texas Department of Transportation, North Central Texas Council of Governments, and cities and towns within the county. But Senior Paws receives no money. It features donated pet food brought to peoples’ homes on the third Saturday of each month by volunteers.
“We are always looking for people to donate monetarily or provide gift cards to pet stores or drop off the pet foods to our office,” McMahon said.

Monetary donations from the public are encouraged. To help raise funds in a more formal setting, the third-annual Masquerade Gala will be held on February 26 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Flower Mound. Additional fundraising events at places, including restaurants and benefit concerts, are planned for 2023.

“These fundraisers are not just about the money we raise,” McMahon said. “Our mission is to educate people about the needs of seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. The Gala is just another avenue for people to understand the needs that are out there and further connect with our community partners.

“We look at several different events to reach the different segments of our community to raise awareness and get people excited about what we do.”

More volunteers also would be very welcome, McMahon said. Interested people can visit the website or call 940-382-2224.

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