Thursday, May 23, 2024

Meals on Wheels serves seniors from Whitefish Community Center

Whitefish Pilot | May 8, 2024 1:00 AM

The Whitefish Community Center has served as the Whitefish hub for the Meals on Wheels program for well over 20 years. 

Around 40 volunteers deliver about 50 meals each day in Whitefish. On weekends, the crew delivers another 25 to 30 frozen meals. 

The service area reaches south to Happy Valley, west to Skyles Lake and north to Whitefish Lake and Big Mountain Road.

For the last six months, Roland Mena has been the coordinator of the program. Mena lived in Butte for 27 years and worked for the Department of Health and Human Services before retiring about four years ago and moving to the Flathead Valley. His work experience and the ease with which he talks with people make him an effective and cordial coordinator for the Meals on Wheels program.

“The main thing is to get people fed and see if they’re safe,” Mena said, adding that the volunteer drivers sometimes encounter someone who has fallen or who requires assistance. 

“I’ve not worked with volunteers before this, so I found it interesting how dedicated our volunteers are,” he said. “The drivers develop a good relationship with the [clients].” 

This is in keeping with the mission statement of Meals on Wheels America, which is to improve the health and quality of life of seniors so that no one is left hungry or isolated. 

According to the Meals on Wheels America website, one in four Americans is over the age of 60 and 24% of seniors live alone. Having a meal delivered helps participants feel more secure and it improves their health.

People living in Whitefish who are interested in using the service provided by Meals on Wheels should contact the main office in Kalispell. They will then be referred to Mena at the community center and put on a delivery schedule.

“All the people that request meals on wheels are vetted through Kalispell and they haven't turned anyone away,” Mena said. “They’ve talked about it, because of concerns with budget restraints, but they haven't done it.”

Volunteers in Whitefish pick up the bulk food each day from Kalispell. Once back at the community center, they portion out the meals into microwavable containers.

“We work on accommodating special diets; we have a couple people who are diabetic so there’s no bread, no rice, no pastas,” Mena said. “We set aside vegetables and [other foods] for those folks.”

The community center also offers congregate meals for people who’d like to come take their meal at the center. Mena said sometimes they will see 20 people for lunch, and other days, only three. There is a small suggested donation for the meals.

“The meals are really very good – they are like Sunday dinner every day,” Mena said. “People always compliment the meals.” 

    Roland Mena, coordinator for the Whitefish Meals on Wheels program, which operates out of the Whitefish Community Center. (Photo provided)