Nearly 40 years ago Lois Elbel and Linda Dempsey began a journey together to help serve meals to the homebound in Lee’s Summit, thus the origins of the local Meals on Wheels organization.
Founded in 1974, the Lee’s Summit Meals on Wheels program has served more than 400,000 thousand meals and Elbel and Dempsey have been front and center for a host of those meals.
At least once per week, Elbel helps prepare the meals for delivery inside the kitchen at Lee’s Summit Medical Center, and once per week Dempsey delivers the meals to participants of the program.
The two are just a pair of more than 50 volunteers who deliver between 65 to 75 meals per weekday in and around the Lee’s Summit area.
“Lois recognized that we needed this program in Lee’s Summit,” Dempsey said. “She really encouraged it. She’s the beginning of it right there.”
Elbel said: “The seed was planted – my mother lived in South Bend, Indiana and they had Meals on Wheels there. She was able to stay in her home two or three years longer by my knowing she had a meal everyday. Then in 1968 she moved to Lee’s Summit and I went to work for the Red Cross in ’74. She had since passed away and I started (Meals on Wheels) in ’74. The seed was there. I had an in with the Red Cross and I thought maybe we could get something started.”
The meals are prepared by the Lee’s Summit Medical Center food service’s staff and the Meals on Wheels program is charged roughly $2.80 per meal. The organization in turn charges participants the same $2.80 fee for the lunch, sometimes taking a hit through subsidies offered to patrons who can’t pay in full.
Those subsidies – the organization never denies food due to an inability to pay – are tough on the not-for-profit’s bottom line. In 2012, the number of subsidized meals increased 65 percent from the first quarter to the end of the year, and with a small donor base, Meals on Wheels needs an infusion of individual and business donors.
MOW is not affiliated with any church or organization and receives no funding from governmental entities.
“It’s such an important program for our city because people can stay in their homes,” Dempsey said. “Some of these people don’t have anyone to come in and see them except for the deliverer.”
Donations and subsidies aside, Ralph Hall, current president for the MOW board of directors, said both Elbel and Dempsey – along with the group’s other volunteers – are what’s good about the Lee’s Summit community.
“A lot of people have been helped over the years,” he said. “Without Lois and Linda we probably wouldn’t have a Meals on Wheels organization because they really started it from the ground floor and they have continued to serve as volunteers through all these years. It’s just amazing the dedication that they have performing a need for the community.”
For more information on Meals on Wheels call 816-524-4966. Individuals, churches or organizations willing to help fund Meals on Wheels or help sponsor lunch for participants can mail donations to: Lee’s Summit Meals on Wheels, P.O. Box 1393, Lee’s Summit, MO 64063.