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Meals on Wheels is a 'linchpin for independence' for many in Rochester

Meals on Wheels is a 'linchpin for independence' for many in Rochester

Seven days a week, 365 days a year, an army of volunteers assemble for a singular purpose — to ensure every member of our community, regardless of age or income, has access to a warm, nutritious meal.

“For a lot of people, it is a linchpin for independence — for staying in their homes,” said April Sutor, director of community collaboration for Family Service Rochester, which oversees the Meals on Wheels program.

For decades, Meals on Wheels has been serving elderly and disabled residents throughout the Rochester area by providing them with a home-delivered meal around the noon hour.

The meals are simple — usually a hot entree with vegetables, fruit and a dessert. But for hundreds of local residents, many of them 75 and older, the nourishment of the meal extends well beyond what’s included in their tray.

“The meal is an essential thing, but the social contact and the friendships that develop over time are just as important,” said Sutor.

For the more than 200 local volunteers who lend their time to support the program, those relationships can be just as rewarding.

Sutor recalled a volunteer coming up to her this past Christmas to tell her about the impact the program has had on his son.

The father-son duo had been delivering meals for four years. But when they started, the man’s son, who has autism, would barely get out of the car.

Over time, though, the boy began to become more comfortable with the people whose homes he was delivering to.

“My son doesn’t talk to anybody but he will go up to the door and say, ‘Meals on Wheels’,” Sutor recalled the volunteer telling her.

“Those are things we don’t often realize,” she added.

To ensure everyone who needs a meal has access to the service, Meals on Wheels relies on the generous support of not only their volunteers, but also local partners, including Mayo Clinic. The financial contributions allow the program to offer a sliding scale payment system for those in need.

“Meals on Wheels plays an integral role in ensuring adequate nutrition, quality of life, as well as independence for a number of local citizens,” said Erin Sexton, director of community engagement for Mayo Clinic.

This weekend, you too have the opportunity to show your support for Meals on Wheels. On Saturday night, Family Service Rochester will host its first-ever Denim, Diamonds and Dice fundraiser. There will be “fun money” casino games, along with live music, small plates featuring local chefs’ delicacies, dessert tables, specialty beers and a full bar.

And perhaps the best part: you don’t have to dress up.

“You can wear your jeans and wear your snowboots,” said Sutor, “and just come out and have a good time with great people who are all there with the same interest — which is making sure others in the community have the meals they need to stay healthy and independent.”

You can learn more about the event and buy tickets by clicking here.

Med City Beat is a proud sponsor of Denim, Diamonds & Dice.

Cover photo: Licensed / Getty

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