Meals on Wheels of the Greater Lehigh Valley has been serving the area for over 50 years, providing not just meals, but also case management, daily wellness checks, social interaction, delivery of food bank and senior food boxes, emergency supplies, grocery shopping, and even pet food to seniors and adults with disabilities.
Director of Development and Communications Dina Kovats-Bernat from South Whitehall Township/Allentown has worked in development for over 10 years and has been at Meals on Wheels for one year after she decided to switch gears from her career in education.
Dina beams as she provides a tour of the newly renovated Allentown facility, and it’s clear that she loves where she works. With pride, she reveals that Meals on Wheels prepares over 1,000 meals fresh every day with over 88 delivery routes and 125 volunteers on the road every day, which provides nutritious and delicious meals to recipients Monday through Friday.
“It’s important work because it’s impactful. We’re changing lives and helping people, so it’s easy for me to be excited and passionate about the work we do and feel good about it. We’re not only providing food, which is a necessity, but we’re also providing independence, respect, and a better quality of life, [so the work] is really satisfying,” Dina shares.
At Meals on Wheels, Dina spends most of her time applying for grants, cultivating donors, event planning, fundraising, creating online/printed communications, and doing public relations and outreach.
Since Dina is the only development staff member at the organization, she admits that this can create pressure to find donors, funding, and more ways to partner with other organizations. Dina explains that philanthropy is not always financial, and there are other ways to make an impact in people’s lives, such as by volunteering time, resources, and small acts of kindness.
“I wish more of our society was open to giving their time because it’s mutually beneficial. We all have a little bit of time and resources we can give to help others,” Dina adds.
Volunteer Monty Siegel from Bethlehem has been volunteering his time at Meals on Wheels for two years, picking up freshly made meals and delivering them to recipients on his lunch break every Wednesday and Friday.
“I love the people I deliver to; I’ve gotten to know them very well. I look forward to seeing them, talking about how they like their meals, and asking how they’re doing,” Monty shares.
On average, he delivers meals to 12 people on his route, which takes him about 45 minutes to an hour.
Monty is a very dedicated volunteer who takes pride in getting to know the recipients he delivers to. For instance, one of the recipients he delivers to can’t see well, so he makes sure that he checks the menu in order to tell her what’s in the meals she receives. He has also gotten to know the maintenance workers of certain places he delivers to who will let him into the building if someone doesn’t answer, and he has even gotten to know some recipients’ neighbors who offer to hold their neighbor’s meals until they return home.
Monty considers himself fortunate to be able to give back to the community.
“It’s a commitment. You’ve got to be nice, and you’ve got to be patient because you’re a reflection of this company and service. You never know, you just might be the highlight of someone’s day,” says Monty.
Assistant Director of Food Service Chelsey Traxler from Bethlehem has worked for Meals on Wheels for nine years and has worked in the food service industry for over 20 years.
Chelsey clocks in at 5:30 a.m. every day and oversees assembly of all cold meals prepared by the staff and volunteers. She prides herself in the food she prepares and hopes to start a bakery in the kitchen that will provide baked goods like cookies and brownies to recipients.
Her motto, she shares, is: “Food is love.”
Chelsey explains that she finds working at Meals on Wheels rewarding and fulfilling because she enjoys the people she works with and knows that she and the rest of the staff and volunteers have accomplished something important each and every day.
Chelsey discloses that some of the challenges she faces are dealing with so many personalities, trying to meld the understanding and knowledge of the kitchen staff with the office staff in order to create and maintain an efficient process, making sure everything is running as smoothly as possible, and being able to multitask and pivot at the drop of a dime depending on any changes that need to be made, so that recipients get their meals on time.
“One thing that a lot of people assume is that [Meals on Wheels] just feeds older people, but we do so much more than that! People also assume that the food we make is crappy, but we put our menus together with a dietician. Our food is good, nutritious food, and things that I make at home are things that are on our menu,” Chelsey points out.
“We serve good food, and I hope people enjoy it as much as I enjoy feeding them,” Chelsey adds.
The consensus amongst these three hardworking individuals is that Meals on Wheels would not be possible without the active volunteers that are relied upon to deliver fresh, nutritious meals every day to the people they serve.
If you or someone you know would like to inquire about services or are interested in helping to support Meals on Wheels of the Greater Lehigh Valley via donation and/or volunteering, more information on this impactful and meaningful organization can be found on their website, mowglv.org, or by calling 610-691-1030.
The Home News is seeking essential workers in the community to interview for the ongoing feature, Noteworthy Neighbors. Emergency responders, teachers, local government, bus drivers, veterans, farmers, etc.; if you do essential work for a living, we want to hear from you. If you are interested in being interviewed and sharing with the community the work that you do, please email AskUs@HomeNewsPA.com.