Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels celebrates 45 years, announces staff and programming expansions

Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels (YMOW) marked the 45th anniversary of delivering its first meal this Monday with a couple of celebrity volunteers and an information session about new programming and expanded staff coming in 2019.


Ypsilanti Police Department Chief Tony DeGiusti and Lt. Brent Yuchasz joined YMOW's usual team of volunteer drivers for Monday's deliveries. Between 10 and 10:30 a.m., volunteers loaded up vans or personal vehicles and delivered meals to about 200 recipients around the city of Ypsilanti as well as Ypsilanti, York, August, and Pittsfield Townships.


After the round of deliveries, the public was invited to a lunch and information session in the community room at First Baptist Church, 1110 W. Cross St. in Ypsi, which also houses YMOW's offices.


"As far as I know, this is the first time Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels has hosted an information session since we made our first delivery," said YMOW executive director Alison Foreman, who led the session. "We wanted to honor the past and also tell you about good things coming in the future."


Foreman briefly covered the history of the international Meals on Wheels program as well as the history of YMOW, which began making its meals in the church kitchen 45 years ago. In the early days, volunteers had a microwave in the van and would heat up meals at each stop before delivery. Today, meals are prepared in a professional kitchen by Valley Food Service in Detroit, but the mission to help homebound seniors and disabled community members remains the same.


Foreman announced that 2019 will see the launch of YMOW's Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) pilot program, thanks to a $500,000 grand prize from the Vital Seniors Competition. The evidence-based program focused on helping seniors stay in their homes and reducing the burden on the health care system originated at Johns Hopkins University and has been replicated in a number of communities around the United States.


Foreman said YMOW did a CAPABLE trial run with four seniors in July 2018. She expects to launch the pilot in the second half of this year, working with 50 seniors who have been identified as having problems with daily activities such as bathing or climbing stairs safely. The program will also help seniors with activities ranging from taking public transportation to managing their own finances.


Over the course of a five-month intervention, practical help to keep seniors living in their own homes will include modifying homes with grab bars and bath chairs, helping seniors identify ways they can save on medication or utility bills, and helping them with tax preparation. Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley will partner with YMOW for the home modifications.


Adding the CAPABLE program also means YMOW must add more volunteers and new employees, including a second social worker, a nurse, and an occupational therapist. Foreman says she thought at first that expanding the staff would require finding another home for YMOW, but First Baptist Church administration worked with YMOW to find another space that can accommodate the expanded staff after some renovations this winter and spring.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.


Virginia Basler photo courtesy of YMOW. Cake photo by Sarah Rigg.

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