Lynn Haynes is retiring as the Executive Director of Meals on Wheels of Norman. She has served the non-profit in that capacity since 2002. Lynn started her non-profit career with the American Red Cross, then came to Meals on Wheels in 1996 as assistant director.

By Marise Boehs

Meals on Wheels of Norman, Inc. founded in 1972, is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit agency. Fifty two years ago, Tedo Pricket and June Morgan saw the need and brought Meals on Wheels to the Norman Community The mission of Meals on Wheels is to provide nutritious noon-time meals to ill, disable, and senior members within the Norman city limits.  They strive to improve the nutrition and mental health of the isolated recipients by providing visitation; and to improve the well-being of their clients by coordinating with existing services in the community.

Clients must live within the Norman city limits. The price of each meal is based on a sliding scale ranging from $1.07-$8.25 and is dependent on the clients income.

“About 50% of our clients are no charge,” said Lynn Haynes, retiring Executive Director of Meals On Wheels of Norman. “These meals are covered through scholarships provide by grants and individual sponsorship.” Clients range in age from 18 to 100+ years.

Determining a client’s eligibility is a quick process and is determined through a brief income screening that can be conducted over the phone. A typical Meals on Wheels client is an elderly widow living on low-fixed income. Today only 9% of individuals served by Meals on Wheels qualify to pay full price.

Meals on Wheels benefits greatly through a community partnership with Norman Regional Health System. Not only does the hospital prepare the noon-time meals deliverd by Meals on Wheels, but provides an annnual subsidy of reduced meal cost, support, and in-kind services. Licensed dietitians determine diets of clients that have special dietary needs. Specialized diets such as diabetic, renal, healthy hear, pureed, and meals that are sensitive to certain food allergies are prepared with care. Additional care is take by the kitchen staff to cut the meat for clients without full use of their hands. All specialized diets are confirmed by the client’s physician to ensure that the appropriate needs are being met.

In order to serve the community, Meals on Wheels relies on a base of over 160 volunteer drivers to deliver approximately 335 meals each weekday. There are 21 different routes delivered daily between 11am and 1pm. Volunteers deliver hot noon-time meals, as well as shelf stable meals for the weekends and holiday, and pet food to the recipients with furry friends. These volunteers come from all walks of life and range in age from elementary school students to retirees. The service these volunteers provide is much greater than just a meal delivery. They offer a lifeline to isolated clients. On many occasions volunteers have found clients in life threatening situations and were able to save the day by just being there. During 2023, 90,711 meals were delivered to 963 ill, disabled, and senior residents of Norman.

Meals on Wheels is governed by a Board of Directors who are active in all fundraising, as well as daily operations. The staff is comprised of three full-time and one part-time positions. Interns through the University of Oklahoma Work-Study Program and TANF workers provide additional office help.

Fundraising is an essential aspect of Meals on Wheels’s survival and growth. Meals Ambassador Baker Mayfield’s No Bogey’s With Baker held at TopGolf in OKC last April was a big success, “adding a large bump to our budget,” said Haynes. Another major fundraising event is the annual golf scramble held in July. As the holidays approach, Meals on Wheels begins to promote its Poinsettia Sale. Their goal is to provide each client with a pretty plant for the holidays as well as raise funds for the budget.

“When I started here in 2002, our budget was $150,000. We had 9 routes and served around 100 meals a day,” Haynes said. “Our budget for 2024 is $920,000. We have 22 routes and serve 305 meals a day.”