by Bobby Anderson
Nearly 20 years ago, Lynn Haynes remembers her phone ringing at the American Red Cross with a worried voice on the other end of the line.
A volunteer with Meals on Wheels Norman was calling the social worker saying their client wasn’t coming to the door to receive their daily meal.
There was noise inside and what sounded like the client’s voice, but no one came to the door.
Haynes drove over and found a window open on the side of the house and went in to investigate.
As she entered she stepped over the elderly woman who had fallen eight hours earlier and had broken her hip.
After calling 911 Haynes sat with the woman and noticed she didn’t seem too worried.
“What she said to me was ‘I knew I would be OK because I knew Meals on Wheels would get to me,’” Haynes recalled. “That was my first experience with them and that made me realize this was a really good thing.”
“Meals on Wheels kind of helps people to stay independent and make sure they have food,” Haynes said of the program’s core mission.
Meals on Wheels America estimates that some 15 to 20 percent of Oklahoma seniors struggle with hunger.
Nationally, one in six seniors face hunger while some 233,000 Oklahoma seniors live in or near poverty.
It’s estimated that one year’s worth of meals for a senior costs the same amount as one day of a hospital stay.
Meals on Wheels of Norman operates on an annual budget of $575,000 with food costs ranging between $15,000 and $20,000 each month.
Haynes said special grants and donations also fund a pet food program.
Haynes is proud that Meals on Wheels has some volunteers who have been around nearly 30 years.
She shudders to think about what might happen if Meals on Wheels Norman went away.
“I think it would be very hard for our community,” Haynes says. “I think you would see people, especially seniors placed more in nursing facilities.”
Haynes says clients pay for their meals based on a sliding scale based on income. Some clients receive their meals for free while others pay from 81 cents to $6.25 per meal.
Haynes knows better than most the program’s deliveries go beyond just providing nutrition.
The friendly volunteers develop relationships and look forward to visiting clients each day.
The feeling is mutual.
The visits insure the health of loved ones and to see that they are receiving a nutritious meal each day.
The agency began serving the Norman community January 21, 1972 as the Norman Mobile Meals Council, under the direction of the late Tedo Prickett, executive director and co-founder.
Meals on Wheels has maintained the same basic philosophy to improve nutrition by providing meal service to the ill, disabled, and senior residents within the Norman city limits. The organization strives to improve the mental health of isolated recipients by providing visitation and to improve the wellbeing of senior citizens in coordination with existing services in the Norman area.
Currently, Norman Regional Hospital prepares all meals. Licensed dietitians determine the necessary meals to accommodate a client’s specialized dietary needs with confirmation from the client’s doctor.
Norman Mobile Meals Council changed its name to Meals on Wheels of Norman, Inc. in 1986.
The group’s annual poinsettia fundraiser is coming up in late November.
Ordering just 5 plants will help provide meals to an ill, disabled, and elderly individual for one week.
Fall is when Haynes needs volunteers the most.
Meals on Wheels of Norman delivers some 300 meals each day. A minimum of 100 volunteers a week are needed to get the meals out.
To learn more about Norman’s Meals on Wheels program, to sign up or to volunteer you can call them at 321-7272