Meaningful Meals

| by Scott Nishimura | Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County served 25 clients when the organization began serving food in 1973.

Today, the organization serves 3,500 meals per day to 2,000 clients who live along 218 volunteer-driven routes.

And in the next 15 years, with the population growing rapidly and aging at the same time, Meals on Wheels projects its demand will double.

“Every dollar and every (volunteer) hour spent will stay here to help those in this community,” Carla Jutson, president and CEO of the Fort Worth-based nonprofit, said.

To meet the growth, Meals on Wheels began construction four months ago on a new headquarters in Haltom City. At 6,300 square feet, it will be double the size of the organization’s current building on I-35W south of downtown Fort Worth. Move-in is tentatively expected in March or April 2016. The building will include administration, a central kitchen that will prepare food for all of Meals on Wheels’ 45 distribution points in the area, and a warehouse for pantry and client services, including Meals on Wheels’ pet food program.

Meals on Wheels is expected to put its current building, which it has outgrown, up for sale. “We currently have a closet that five people sit in,” Iris Bruton, the marketing director, joked.

More than 60 employees work for Meals on Wheels, including kitchen staffers who work for an outsourced vendor, Valley Services. Each summer, Meals on Wheels also hires 12 interns.

Although Meals on Wheels has around 5,000 volunteer drivers, it is always on the lookout for more, particularly during the summer vacation months. “We’re always trying to replenish volunteers,” Bruton said.

The organization asks each volunteer to commit to one route one day per week, with eight to 12 clients served on each route. “A volunteer needs to commit just one hour for a day,” Bruton said.

Meals on Wheels serves 42 cities in the area, including Arlington.

The new building will cost at least $15.2 million to build, Bruton said. The organization is playing catchup financially, about $150,000 behind on its annual $6 million operating budget coming out of the capital campaign to build the facility, she said.

Meals on Wheels raises 48 percent of its operating budget typically through grants and government program contracts for serving clients; 40 percent from churches and workplace giving; and 8 percent from foundations. About 4 percent of the budget comes from clients’ contributions. Clients aren’t charged for meal service but are welcome to contribute.

Coming up on Sept. 12 at Ridglea Country Club is Meals on Wheels’ major fundraiser, Casino Night 2015.

The VIP tickets cost $700 per couple and will include, after the party, one night at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, a hosted cocktail party in a private suite at the hotel and morning brunch.

The $700 ticket price would pay for about 100-117 meals.

More information can be found at mealsonwheels.org.