Volunteers serving food (the Gazette)

College Park’s oldest food serving program is celebrating 35 year this year.

Based in the United Methodist Church on Rhode Island Avenue, the program feeds between 60 to 65 people three meals a day, Monday to Friday. The College Park Meals on Wheels is one of the 5000 local similar chapters in the country.

The group has volunteers ranging from teenagers to octogenarians and serves residents in College Park, Berwyn Heights and parts of Beltsville and Greenbelt. It buys its own ingredients; delivers items including fish, fruits, vegetables and sandwiches; and also gives customers non-perishable food packages for weather emergencies, according to this Gazette article.

Ms. Lisa Ealley is the treasurer of the program. She said in an email to me that the need (for the program) is great. “There are so many people that call us from areas that we don’t serve that we have to turn down,” she added.

In years past, the group has relied on federal funding, the cities of College Park and Greenbelt, local politicians, community organizations and private donors to help cover more than $100,000 in annual costs.

In recent years the rough economy forced the group to raise its weekly price for recipients from $20 to $25 in February. The group also had to buy a new $3,500 refrigerator after the old one stopped working this winter.

The program has received grants of as much as $2,500 from the College Park City Council in past years, but Ealley convinced council members to allocate $3,500 in this year’s city budget. Meals on Wheels volunteers are still hoping they’ll be able to ride out the difficult economic times and continue preparing meals and carrying them to residents for years to come.

“Our main criteria [to give someone food] are that they are unable to prepare food for themselves. So some of our recipients are only clients for a few weeks and some have been with us for years!” – said Ms. Ealley.

Ms. Ealley said the group is also in need of people who can help to deliver meals or work in the kitchen. “We have many volunteers (many of our volunteers qualify for our meals!) but they are unable to work every day so there are days that we have a very small set of helping hands.”

She said the group is the only face that some recipients see for weeks on end. “We are their “lifeline” and have had instances where we have been the ones calling for an ambulance. “

If you would like to help out Meals on Wheels either by your donations or spending time, please contact Lisa Ealley at l_ealley@msn.com. “Working with this program is extremely rewarding and we are fortunate that we can continue to provide for our clients” – said Ms. Ealley.