A Central Operations Center for Meals on Wheels
From Liz Wilson, UWCA Director of Grants Management & Community Initiatives
Since the United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) took on the administration of Meals on Wheels of Central Alabama in 2016, the program has occupied kitchen space in Cooper Green Mercy Hospital. Program staff continues to operate from UWCA headquarters two miles away, limiting the ability to provide training and direct supervision of kitchen staff, drivers, and volunteers. Administering the program from two locations is inefficient, and the kitchen space is increasingly inadequate for meeting the needs of a growing senior population.
n 2018, UWCA purchased the building adjacent to its headquarters at 3620 8th Avenue South. Interior demolition began in 2019, and renovations kicked off in January 2020. Soon, landscaping will consolidate the current headquarters building with the new building into one campus.
Construction is well underway to create central Meals on Wheels operations center on the lower level. It will feature two loading docks (one for deliveries, one for volunteer meal pick-up), a commercial-grade kitchen, offices for program staff and a volunteer training center, all carefully designed to maximize the operational efficiency of the program.
When COVID-19 hit, Meals on Wheels moved quickly to take on in-home meal delivery for Jefferson County’s entire congregate meal recipient population when the 28 senior centers throughout the county closed. Also, in response to the pandemic, Meals on Wheels has committed to addressing the waitlist, with plans to assess and enroll those seniors as quickly as possible in the coming weeks.
Never has the program been more critical to homebound seniors and the well-being of our community. These challenging times have demonstrated just how vital the soon-to-be-completed operations center will be, and how many more opportunities for service and partnerships it will create, thanks to funding from the Housing Affordability Trust.