When the Cayman Islands Meals on Wheels started in 1997, a small group of volunteers delivered food three days per week to 14 senior citizens.
Some 20 years later, the initiative has grown to 100 people helping more than 200 individuals five days per week. Nearly one million meals have been served over the organization’s history, according to its founders.
The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman commemorated the 20th anniversary of Meals on Wheels at a luncheon on Thursday, reflecting on the charity’s humble beginnings and honoring those who helped it get to its current state. Meals on Wheels General Manager Erin Bodden also told the Compass about some of the challenges the organization continues to face.
Former Rotary President Sophia Harris said starting Meals on Wheels in Cayman was the idea of another former Rotary president, Larry Chomyn, who saw the positive impact the organization was having on his mother in Canada.
Ms. Harris said that other key people included Pastor Al Ebanks and some of his congregation at the Agape Family Worship Centre, Foster’s Food Fair founder David Foster, Joey Hew, Beulah McField, and Kent “Biggie” Rankin, who let volunteers use his kitchen at Rankin’s Jerk Centre.
Two years after it started, Meals on Wheels was officially incorporated in the Cayman Islands as a not-for-profit company with the Rotary Club as the sole shareholder.
“This, by the way, was not an easy decision. There were many within the club who felt passionately about Meals on Wheels as a Rotary project and that it should remain as one, as it galvanized our club in such a meaningful manner,” Ms. Harris said at the luncheon. “I still think it was the right thing to do, as projects of Rotary were never really meant to run on indefinitely.”
Now, Meals on Wheels gets about a quarter of its funding from government, with the rest coming from donations and fundraising events, said Ms. Bodden, who became its general manager in August.
Ms. Bodden said that the organization costs about $25,000 per month to run, but is in desperate need of more funding to enable it to serve the entire community.
The organization has kitchens in George Town, Bodden Town and East End, but needs to open another in West Bay to help roughly 150 people that are unserved there, she said.
“Our George Town kitchen feeds 20 people now in West Bay,” she said. “Those 20 people we can manage, but to take on another 150 people isn’t possible.”
Another 60 people in East End remain unserved due to resource shortages, she said, adding that Meals on Wheels also only delivers three times per week in North Side.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have this need. We wouldn’t have people with not enough pension and retirement funds to support themselves,” she said. “But it’s wonderful if our community [helps] those around them and [tries] to assist where they can.”