Prescott Meals on Wheels: More than a Meal
by Kennan King
“More than a meal.” That’s how Bert Ijams describes Prescott Meals on Wheels, providing hot meals for seniors lacking access to them. As the organization's executive director, for her that mantra rings true even in the face of today’s national crisis.
Every week, a dedicated staff of nine and a relentless crew of over 250 volunteers ensure that meals go out to residents all over Prescott and Prescott Valley for whom stores are inaccessible and cooking is difficult. It’s an operation driven by a passionate goal to serve and nurture.
It’s also on track to serve 72,000 meals this year, showing no sign of slowing. Since 1973 PMoW has been serving the community, and Bert and her team are proving that it’s going to take more than a virus to shut them down. “We are wearing masks and gloves and washing our hands till our skin is raw,” she says, “but we're having fun, we’re laughing, and we are all so invested in our mission and the people we serve that everybody comes in, we do our jobs, we stick together and get 'er done.”
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, PMoW is caring for clients by only offering home-delivered meals; the dining room at the 1280A E. Rosser St. location is not open. Instead of daily meal deliveries, meals are going out on one designated day per week, with one hot and five frozen meals for each client. This system ensures minimal contact with each recipient and that all are fed until the next delivery. With fewer personal visits, the staff is doing daily check-in calls to keep in touch with clients and confirm their wellbeing and safety. These measures have been in place since March 17, and are slated to continue until at least April 28.
Ijams notes that these check-in calls are what really makes the service “more than a meal.” This unique touch allows them to note any additional needs and connect personally with each client. Many who were already homebound are now unable to receive visitors due to obvious health concerns. This can be the hardest part of the crisis, and what makes the calls so vital now.
Often these calls reveal other ways the PMoW staff can assist a client. Ijams relates how a client had received a cake mix, but had no eggs. When staff discovered this during her check-in call, she received a half-dozen eggs with the following delivery, and her home filled with the comforting smell of a baking cake — and the mouth-watering results, of course.
Stories like this are not rare among the people of PMoW, and in this time of crisis they are growing more frequent, as are initiatives to help those in need. Recently the group started a Random Act of Kindness program, selecting clients at random to receive donated gift baskets containing much-needed essentials like toilet paper and hand-sanitizer, as well as some more fun items. Simple acts of kindness like these set this organization apart.
The PMoW staff and volunteers aren’t the only ones stepping up to help, of course; Ijams says that she has been overwhelmed with support from the community. From monetary donations to hundreds of masks for volunteers and even clients, “the community is providing everything we need.” With shifts in policy and circumstances, she confirms that additional volunteers are not needed at this time, and that in keeping with social-distancing guidelines, they have reduced volunteer participation to minimum.
But there are still many ways you can help support this very effective organization. You can assist seniors in the community by respecting social-distancing guidelines, self-isolating, taking advantage of grocery-delivery services, checking in with your loved ones consistently via phone or email, and as always donations are incredibly helpful, especially in these times of financial uncertainty. By doing these things you greatly multiply the impact of Prescott Meals on Wheels.
Bert Ijams expresses great appreciation for the thoughtful public support. “I want to thank the community on behalf of our entire staff and our volunteers for being so generous.
On behalf of myself, our staff and our board of directors, we want to make sure that any adult in Prescott or Prescott Valley is reaching out to us if they’re in a situation where they’re not getting proper nutrition and they would like to start our service. We just want to make sure we are serving as many people as we can who need this service.”
More than a meal? Absolutely.
Contact Prescott Meals on Wheels at 928-445-7630 or PMoWcares@gmail.com. (For everyone's health and safety, please use these methods of communication and to not visit the brick-and-mortar location.)
Kennan King is a Grand Canyon University student currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Communications with the hope of working in public relations. He enjoys writing, collecting vintage hats, and photography.