Meals transition a good fit

While I was mostly pleased by the article in the June 9 newspaper regarding the change from Meals on Wheels to Food & Friends, it was a mixed bag of good information and inaccuracies, so I'd like to clarify some points.

Earlier this year, as president of the Board of Directors for Meals on Wheels, I approached Food & Friends about the possibility of them taking over our program. My reasons were basically two-fold:

Each year as I recruited groups (such as churches and service clubs) to provide drivers for MOW, most stated that they were having increasing trouble filling their driving slots. Many of them reported shrinking membership; two or three churches dropped out of MOW participation in the last two years, as well as one service club — each leaving at least a week of driving that I needed to get covered.

The other reason we looked at handing over the program is that our numbers of clients have been declining for two or three years. We tried to increase our outreach to make sure people knew about MOW, but we seemed to be "stuck" at about half of what we used to deliver at dinner. And the organizational effort is about the same regardless of the numbers.

I want to note that Meals on Wheels has never been free, as was stated in the article. We've always been able to keep the costs quite modest due to the good graces of Southern Oregon University, Ashland Community Hospital and Skylark Assisted Living, but the program has never been free.

The transition to Food & Friends is a good fit: They already serve hot lunches to hundred of seniors in Jackson and Josephine counties and they have an excellent system in place that displays a commitment to quality and caring service.

The MOW board and I want to be sure that our volunteer groups and drivers know how very much they were appreciated. When one contemplates the sheer number of people who've so generously given their time driving for MOW over the course of 30-plus years, the total is gratifyingly staggering. Thank you all.

And thanks to Evelyn, Monica, Paula and Jane at Food & Friends for their work in making the transition smooth, and for showing such care for our clients.

Marilyn Bailey is president of Ashland Meals on Wheels.

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