New menu, new safety protocols, new clients welcome!
When the pandemic arrived in March, Meals on Wheels Shaker (like many organizations) felt unprepared. We had a lot working against us. Our clients — mostly senior citizens, some quite ill, almost all living alone — appeared to be highly vulnerable to the virus. Our Food Director had just retired. Most of our volunteers were seniors, and we didn’t have any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The Ohio Governor was urging everyone to shelter in place. And at that time, we didn’t even know whether or not food was a major vector for the virus. But still, our clients needed to be fed.
Sometimes an emergency is the best agent for change. We had to make big changes fast, or the pandemic was going to shut us down. We needed more capital; we needed to hire a new director; and we needed COVID-19 safety protocols.
First, we reached out to the community for donations, and wow! we received enough individual donations and emergency grant money to put in a stop-gap solution: purchasing high quality ready-to-go meals from the local café, Picnic Hill Market. This required fewer volunteers (i.e. less risk) and bought us enough time to find a new Food Director.
Recruitment efforts for the director position led us to Kimberly Homan Rodriguez. Kimberly had extensive restaurant experience and was already practicing COVID-19 safety protocols in a professional kitchen. She quickly implemented these new measures as well as a new food plan that completely transformed our menu. We went from pre-made institutional meals to meals prepared fresh daily in our kitchen. View a full week sample menu here. The fact that we are able to provide this level of quality and freshness to clients at just $7 a day makes us very proud.
In addition to new kitchen protocols, we now have plenty of PPE for volunteers thanks to The Cleveland Foundation and new delivery guidelines that keep drivers and clients safe. We offer ‘no-touch’ delivery to client homes Monday/Wednesday/Friday.
Our Meals on Wheels chapter met the challenge of our time head-on, and now we are ready to serve more clients in Shaker Heights, Beachwood, and University Heights. If we can help you or someone you know, please contact us to learn more about signing up for our meal service.
We have hired Kimberly Homan Rodriguez as our new Director. Kimberly has 30 years of experience in the food industry including work as a chef, manager, event planner and instructor in various restaurants, cafes, markets, event spaces and culinary stores. She is a graduate of Bradley University and holds various food service certificates. Kimberly has experience with planning nutritious meals, which will help Meals on Wheels as we determine how to proceed with our food service.
Ms. Rodriguez is a Cleveland native and currently lives in Cleveland Heights with her wife and daughter. She is looking forward to meeting our volunteers and getting started in this exciting new endeavor.
Ms. Rodriguez replaces our previous Director Penny Parker who moved on from Meals on Wheels in March. Penny served our organization and our subscribers with passion and dedication for the past three years. We are grateful for her service and wish her the best in her future endeavors.
We have received funding from various sources to help us through these trying times. First, we received a generous grant from the Margaret W. Wong Fund of The Cleveland Foundation. We are using these funds to purchase food from local restaurants for delivery one day per week to our subscribers. We also have used these funds to purchase items to include in our COVID Care Packages for distribution to our subscribers. We have also received N95 masks from The Cleveland Foundation for use by our volunteers when we restart our food service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland.
We also received a grant from Meals on Wheels America. This grant will allow us to restock our pantry with non perishables food items, fill the freezer with frozen meals, buy catering and packaging supplies including trays for meal prep and purchase new coolers along with thermal bags for delivery to clients. Part of the funds will be used to increase communication with our clients and their emergency contacts by the creation of a new user friendly website. This type of technology format will allow individuals as well as our volunteers and the general public/ donors to connect with our organization, view our newsletters, create a user experience for donations and establish online payment options.
Last, we received individual donations from numerous Friends of Meals on Wheels in response to our COVID-19 Emergency Appeal in March. These donations helped us purchase food for meals while we were making decisions about how to help our subscribers during the shutdown. You can view a full list of 2020 donors here.
We and our subscribers appreciate the generosity of the Margaret W. Wong Fund of The Cleveland Foundation, Meals on Wheels America, and YOU!
We Respond to COVID-19
Thank You Picnic Hill Market
We have been working with Picnic Hill Market, a new market in Shaker Heights, to provide food for our subscribers during this period of the pandemic. Picnic Hill Market, located at Fairmount Circle, is a gourmet market and café that opened its doors in January 2020. After just two months, when Governor DeWine shut down all restaurants, the owners Michael Miller and Shawn Brown decided to change course and provide carryout meal services. MOW contacted the owners and collaborated with them to establish a system of preparing meals for our clients that our volunteers can deliver to our subscribers.
One day each week, MOW is delivering multiple nutritious meals to help our subscribers stay healthy and independent. For the time being, we are using the generous donations we have received to pay for the meals. We will return to our subscription procedure soon, as we hope to get back to providing five meals a week. In the meantime, this system has allowed MOW to deliver food to our subscribers without our volunteers being directly involved in the food preparation.
In the photos below you can see one day of our Picnic Hill Market selections: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans, chicken Vesuvio, and bread pudding with a whiskey cream sauce.
Our Meals on Wheels chapter is doing our best to deal with the effects of this Coronavirus pandemic and Ohio’s “Shelter in Place” order from Governor DeWine. Many of our subscribers are in the highest-risk demographic for the virus, as are many of our volunteers. In addition, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland — the church where we assemble our meals — is closed for the foreseeable future. Although the church offered to let us continue to use the kitchen, we were very concerned that we would not be able to adequately clean and sanitize the kitchen for safe food assembly in this time of high risk. As a result, we suspended our regular deliveries as of March 18, 2020.
The L.A. Times published an article on March 31, 2020, suggesting ways people can support seniors:
What have we done? Our volunteers have reached out to all subscribers on a weekly basis in order to assess individual needs and make sure each person has a sufficient supply of food (Thank You Picnic Hill Market!) and we are providing COVID Care Packages to all subscribers which include non-perishable food and personal items (see below). We will continue to keep in touch with our subscribers throughout the summer. We are hopeful that we will be able to resume service this summer; however, no date has been set and many new procedures will need to be put into place before we can do so.
COVID-19 CARE PACKAGES
Laura Rowan and Kerianne Hearns have combined their talents to fill COVID Care Packages for our subscribers. These are similar to the “Snow Bags” we give our subscribers in the winter to help them when we can’t deliver food. The bags are filled with non-perishable food and toiletries including soaps, Kleenex and wipes. We are delivering one bag to each subscriber each month. Our subscribers appreciate receiving these bags and the little surprises contained in them. Thank you Laura and Kerianne!
Thank You to Our Donors
Thank You Picnic Hill Market
When Dr. Paul Nickerson became our new Board President in February, he didn’t anticipate the challenges ahead when a worldwide pandemic hit in March!
Paul grew up in western PA, obtained his BA and MD degrees from Northwestern University, and served his internship in internal medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. After a “break” to serve as the Battalion Surgeon for a howitzer battalion in Vietnam, Paul completed his training in Rochester, NY, where he met his wife, Barbara, an ER nurse. They returned to Cleveland where Paul spent his entire career as an internist and geriatrician at the Cleveland Clinic. Since retirement, Paul worked with the Certified Emergency Response Team program in University Heights for a number of years. He and Barbara have a son and daughter and three grandkids, all of whom live in Chicago.
Paul has served as a volunteer driver for MOW for over nine years and has been a Board member since 2017. When Governor DeWine decided to quarantine the state and told people over age 60 to stay home, Paul was immediately swamped with meetings via telephone, in person and on ZOOM. He ably led the Board through numerous decisions including shutting down meal service and making arrangements to stay in contact with our clients. He praises the MOW volunteers and Board members for responding to this crisis and doing the very best they can to keep providing meals to those who are in need of food but also in economic peril.
Paul succeeds Dale Braun who served as President since 2017. Dale will remain on the Board to add his thoughtful ideas to our planning. Thank you, Dale, for a great job as our President!
First of all, thank you so much to all those who donated in response to our emergency appeal. Your contributions are allowing us to pursue solutions we would otherwise not have been able to consider.
Second, like most everyone else, our Meals on Wheels chapter is doing our best to deal with the effects of this Coronavirus pandemic and Ohio’s “Shelter in Place” order. Many of our clients are in the highest-risk demographic for the virus, as are many of our volunteers. In addition, the church where we assemble our meals has closed. Although the church offered to let us continue to use the kitchen, we were very concerned that we would not be able to adequately clean and sanitize the kitchen for safe food assembly in this time of high risk. As a result, we have suspended regular deliveries at this time. However, our volunteers have reached out to all subscribers in order to assess individual needs and make sure each person has a sufficient supply of food. Currently we are serving our established clients at least two meals a week.
And finally, we would like to inform our community that our Director, Penny Parker, has decided to move on from Meals on Wheels. Penny served our organization and our clients with passion and dedication for the past three years. We are grateful for her service and wish her the best in future endeavors. For now, our volunteer board will be handling day-to-day operations. Once we have more of an understanding of the effects of this pandemic and our staff needs going forward, we will be looking to hire a new Director.
Thanks for your continued support. Stay healthy everyone!
The Board of Directors
Meals on Wheels
Shaker Heights, Beachwood, and University Heights