Ely announces dining and food pantry organization, Our Table to Yours
SOLON– Members of the Ely community are coming together to fill the stomachs and hearts of those in need.
In the middle of April, Horizons Meals on Wheels for seniors ended service in Ely.
“People in Ely were wondering what was going to happen to the program,” explained Pastor Ericka Uthe of St. John Lutheran Church. “There were a lot of different conversations going on. It just needed somebody to step up and do the coordinating.”
In order to keep providing meal services to senior citizens, Pastor Uthe teamed up with Pastor Julie Schuett at the First Presbyterian Church Near Ely and Teri Billick, who works as a deputy clerk for the city.
“We wanted to figure out a way to keep it going,” said Billick. “[Pastor Uthe] has applied for some grants. There have been some donors who have also contributed.”
As a result, a new community organization, Our Table to Yours, has been created to fill the void.
Meals are served in the community center every Tuesday and Friday afternoon beginning at 11:45 a.m. Food is also served on Bingo Day which is the third Wednesday of every month. In the case that someone cannot make it to the community center, a meal will be delivered.
“Since our initial announcement , we’ve received really wonderful support from people within the corridor region,” stated Uthe. “We’ve gotten some checks in the mail, we’ve gotten a lot of phone calls asking how people can help, we’ve gotten a lot of suggestions from other individuals on where to find resources. We recently were awarded a grant from the Presbyterian Church USA for $3,000 to help get us started. We’re really doing well in terms of funding. Our real need right now is for people who are willing to cook the food.”
As the program does not receive federal funding, there are no dietary regulations, although the food allergies and preferences of the seniors are documented on file. People who want to contribute a meal are welcome to select the dish themselves, prepare it offsite, and then deliver it to the community center. Uthe explained that, as of now, the cooks will be reimbursed based upon receipts.
“With the Our Table to Yours organization, we hope to have a pantry for Ely plus the senior dining,” said Uthe. “So eventually what that means is that people would be able to come to the pantry and go grocery shopping to prepare the meals for the seniors.”
“It’s a combined effort with the hope that people can feel like that they can come to the pantry if they need supplies, whether it be food or paper products or anything,” added Billick. “If we don’t have it and they are in need of it, I would think that as a group effort we could find a way to help them.”
Twenty-five to 30 seniors participate in the senior dining program each day that food is served. As well as providing the meals, volunteers are also needed to serve the food and clean up after the meal.
“They’re really appreciative of the food. It’s a great way to show our community that we’re here to support them,” said Uthe.
Those involved are taking steps to make the volunteering process more convenient with an interactive calendar.
“Ideally, it’s more streamlined. People can simply go to the calendar and sign up for a day and put in what they’re going to make if they have an idea ahead of time so we can announce it,” said Uthe.
Uthe and Billick are actively seeking a volunteer coordinator. This individual needs to have a phone and access to the Internet as well as a love of people, said Uthe.
“(This person should also be) someone who is outgoing and maybe has been a citizen of our community for quite some time and maybe knows a lot of people, very organized, and not afraid to ask for help,” added Billick.
Transportation needs for seniors are also something that will be addressed in the future.
“When we do start to expand our services, transportation will likely be one of the first options,” said Uthe.
The main goal of the organization is to provide services to those who are in need, explained Uthe and Billick.
“It’s open to everyone,” emphasized Billick. “There’s no questions asked. It’s very open arms. We would never turn anyone away.”
“It’s really great to see the community step up. But that’s what it’s going to take to make it go. It’s nice to be part of it,” said Uthe.
Those who are interested in receiving meals should contact city hall directly. Donations to the program can be brought to St. John Lutheran Church or to Teri Billick’s home after contacting her at 319-389-6808. Interested volunteers can find out more by searching for Our Table to Yours on Facebook.