Ten years ago, Roberta McArthur started running One Good Meal, following after her mother, who founded the Lee’s Summit organization 1995.
“She gets to inherit her mother’s business of ... making nothing,” said Dayton Runkle, president of the board for One Good Meal.
“Everybody’s a volunteer, I don’t have a pay check,” McArthur said.
McArthur is executive director but her only benefit is the telephone provided to coordinate the group which delivers daily hot meals to shut-ins or people with disabilities.
One Good Meal’s annual budget is about $100,000. It serves about 100 people of all ages. It charges for meals but is heavily dependent on volunteers and donations.
Operating expenses are about 7 percent aside from food, McArthur said, otherwise the service couldn’t help as many people as it does.
Runkle said that’s only possible because McArthur and her husband, who are retired and aren’t wealthy people, are dedicated to allowing One Good Meal to continue its work.
“Her faith and belief in taking care of these people are unbelievable,” Runkle said. “She has the same dedication as her mother.”
The meal fees are $4 each, about 55 percent of the clients pay full costs for the meal, but the group asks recipients only to pay what they can afford.
So generally there’s about a $30,000 to $35,000 shortfall for the operating budget.
Service groups such as Rotary Club of Lee’s Summit and Sunrise Rotary help make up the difference. They also provide a pool of volunteers for drivers to deliver the meals. Five days a week McArthur is at Martin Luther Lutheran Church at Second and Ward streets where meals are packed. A platoon of volunteers converges to distribute them, drivers for 10 routes a day.
The Hy-Vee Inc. grocery near Third Street and U.S. 50 provides food at a discount. Another group of volunteers bakes for One Good Meal.
“Somebody sits down and makes me 110 desserts for each of the five days,” McArthur said. She’d also like to find cooks who’d take on fixing 10 sugar-free desserts for each day for clients who have diet restrictions. There’s an ongoing need for drivers.
Rotary Club of Lees Summit makes One Good Meal one of its ongoing projects, providing a pool for drivers. And Sunrise Rotary hosts an annual fundraiser called Empty Bowls, February 2.
McArthur oversees the routes and all the various tasks that go on five days a week. Her husband, Jim McArthur, is there many days as well. She arrives at 9:15 a.m. and finishes about 12:30. Then she heads to the nursing home where she helps take care of her mother.
McArthur greets visitors with a hug, and wisecracks with volunteers. Drivers are cross trained to dish meals into clamshells and load them into coolers.
“We make them do everything around here, I’m vicious, you know.” McArthur said.
She has a positive outlook, even though she has family members with health problems and running One Good Meal is constant juggling act.
“She has a great joy for life, she keeps smiling every day,” Runkle said.
Runkle, who also a driver, said the volunteer drivers meet interesting people, visiting a little with the clients, and sometimes provide more help, encounter people who might need medical assistance. It takes about one hour to drive a route.
Volunteers get satisfaction from gratitude of the people being served. One lady keeps a candy dish to give treats to drivers. There are several young children who go with their mothers and get surrogate grandparents.
Betty McKnought started the program in 1995 and was director until McArthur took the rein, under oversight by a Board of Directors.
Runkle said the board has worked to improve the business side of the group, by getting software improve bookkeeping and bill clients, and getting uniform portion control to control costs.
McArthur said she’d helped with fundraising since the group’s inception. It began when her mother was helping some family friends after they found Meals on Wheels couldn’t help them because of capacity limits.
They began taking hot meals informally to five friends and after the first summer decided to expand One Good Meal into a broader, organized program.
McArthur at the time had been employed by an insulation firm where she worked with coordinating seven installers, but helped initially with fundraising, when she retired she started helping her mother with more of the tasks.
She had been employed by an insulation firm where she worked with coordinating seven installers.
McArthur said she originally wanted to keep One Good Meal going for her mother’s legacy.
“It became something I truly love,” McArthur said. “You’d understand if you went out on one of the routes. It’s that you’re making a big difference in their hearts and lives. I do it because I love it.”