Spokane Valley – When a driver from Greater Spokane Meals on Wheels knocks on the door with a warm meal for a Spokane senior, they are not just providing nutrition but also a little social time with people who may lead very isolated lives.
Greater Spokane Meals on Wheels (GSMW), which recently received a grant from the Avista Foundation, served 230,000 meals to seniors in Spokane County in 2021.
“For a lot of our seniors, the meal we deliver may be the only face-to-face contact that they have that day,” said executive director Jeff Edwards. “Sometimes it’s also the only meal they get every day.”
Five days a week, volunteer drivers deliver a hot meal at lunchtime, and they also leave frozen meals to tide the seniors over for the weekend. GSMW has no waiting list right now; any senior who needs a meal can get into the program.
In remote areas, distance makes it impossible to have daily delivery, so volunteers instead bring seven frozen meals once a week.
“We have somewhere between 45 and 50 routes out into the county and we need a driver for each, every day,” Edwards said. “We have the best volunteers, and we always need drivers – especially in the city of Spokane.”
Doing a route takes about 1.5 hours, and Edwards said drivers get to know “their” seniors very well.
GSMW also delivers pet food, if there is a need for that. That began after it was discovered that lonely seniors shared part of their meal with their pets.
“This way we can make sure the people get the people food and the pets get the pet food,” Edwards said.
The organization also operates 10 Silver Cafes across Spokane County, where seniors over 60 can come in for a hot meal and conversation. Edwards said the meal sites are especially important in rural towns, where many businesses and restaurants have closed.
“The one in Spangle is really popular,” Edwards said. “It’s a big deal when we come down there.”
Some of GSCMW’s funding comes from Aging and Long-term Care of Eastern Washington, the rest of the funding comes from private donations. Edwards said about 91 cents of each donated dollar goes directly to purchase food. His biggest worry is the rising cost of food right now.
“Any funds that come in this year are going to be more impactful than ever before,” Edwards said.
He added that the volunteers are the hub of the organization. Even during COVID, with various restrictions and requirements, drivers showed up to do their routes.
“There is no doubt about it: our volunteers are the secret sauce of success here,” Edwards said.
At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $13 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.