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Riderwood Hosts 40th Anniversary Celebration of Colesville Meals on Wheels

June 2, 2016

Silver Spring, MD—Last month, Riderwood retirement community hosted a milestone celebration for Colesville Meals on Wheels…its 40th anniversary party.  Current and past board members, volunteers and friends of the program shared memories and reflected on their collective mission.

Becky Hedin and her husband Alan, residents of Riderwood, attended the event.  The couple has long been affiliated with Colesville Meals on Wheels in a variety of roles.

"I did volunteer work the second year they began operating.  My three-year old son actually drove with us as we took food to clients," recalled Mrs. Hedin, who has served as the Volunteer Coordinator (a Board position) in recent years and chaired the 40th Anniversary Committee.  She also managed the volunteers on Fridays, ensuring that there were 14 people able to cover all seven routes.

"Seeing some of the returning volunteers for a chance to say 'thanks to all' made the anniversary celebration a special day," said Mrs. Hedin of the May 2 event.

The personal connections, though, have elevated the experience to new heights.

"Getting to know the dedicated volunteers and the friendships that endure make working with Meals on Wheels incredibly special," said Mrs. Hedin.  "For example, one of my Friday volunteers started delivering when her youngest daughter was about two years old.  Now her daughter is in college, and Trish continues to come each Friday and now serves as our Treasurer."

Those relationships extend to the recipients of the meals, too.  

"Many clients are especially appreciative.  One would frequently ask if he could give you a kiss when his meal was delivered and then gave a candy kiss," noted Mrs. Hedin.  "We know that sometimes our quick hello is the only personal contact some people have."

More information about Colesville Meals on Wheels can be found at

An Overview of Colesville Meals on Wheels, Inc. (2016)

Colesville Meals on Wheels, Inc. has been serving meals in our community for 40 years. We were formed out of the C-4 (Colesville Council of Community Congregations) group of 14 congregations. The initial work was done by Virginia Arnold, Mike Buckley, Eileen Coyne, Ethel Fesmire, Dianne Lyon, and others. Wheaton Meals on Wheels gave us lots of guidance and some seed money. There are several Meals on Wheels organizations in Montgomery County. Each one is an independent entity and not connected in any formal way with the others. We do occasionally work together to adjust boundaries or to network about common concerns. Otherwise we are on our own.

Colesville Meals on Wheels is a completely volunteer group. Virginia Arnold, our first president, was concerned with the same things that all of us at Meals on Wheels have been concerned with over the course of these 40 years – clients, volunteers, meals, and money. Everything that we do revolves around our clients.

We serve clients in the northeast Silver Spring area. This includes neighborhoods north of the Beltway in the areas of Four Corners, Woodmoor, Hillandale, White Oak, Colesville, Kemp Mill, west Calverton, Fairland, Good Hope, Briggs Chaney, and Stonegate. Most of our clients are elderly folks who are either ill and cannot shop or cook for themselves, or frail and unable to prepare balanced meals or do other daily living tasks. Some of our clients are younger than 60 years; typically they are chronically ill or disabled adults who are unable to prepare proper meals. Most of these people would not be able to stay in their own homes if they did not receive Meals on Wheels. There is nothing more comforting than to be able to have a sense of home, to be in your own space. That's the embodiment of the American Dream. It is gratifying to know that we can help someone hold on to that for a little longer.

Holy Cross Hospital was our first and has been our only meal provider. They have provided meals at or below cost for all this time, allowing us to offer our meals for very low prices. In 1976 the cost for 2 meals was $2.50 each weekday. Today the daily cost is $5.00 for a boxed cold lunch and a frozen dinner meal. This is still far below the price of two meals prepared at home.

Holy Cross Hospital maintains our service as an outreach mission to the community. We work with the hospital dietitians to make sure the meals follow all nutritional and health safety guidelines. The hospital also offers pureed and mechanically soft meals for those who need it.

We are funded by charitable gifts, which help with overhead costs and some unmet meal costs, including subsidies to help clients who cannot afford to pay for their meals. We are especially grateful for churches like St. John the Baptist that show their love of God through a generous monthly donation.

In 1992 we decided that the need was great enough to apply for the federal Older Americans Act subsidy to help pay for clients over 60 who were not able to pay the full cost of their meals. And in 2001, when we began to serve more and more people under 60 who were unable to pay for their meals, we temporarily received subsidies for disabled non-elderly adults. In recent years we found ourselves financially stable enough to drop these subsidies, although we may need to rely on them again in the future as the needs of those in our county change.

We've come a long way since starting on May 3, 1976 – at that time we had many volunteers but no clients. In fact, there were no clients until May 24 of that year when we started delivering to four clients. We served 848 meals between May 24 and December 31, 1976. During our first 10 years we delivered a total of 74,290 meals. How times have changed! We now have seven routes, with a capacity of 11 clients on each. At one time we had so many clients on our waiting list that we decided to reduce our territory and give over that area to Central Maryland Meals on Wheels. We now average about 70 clients most days. All totaled, since the inception of Colesville Meals on Wheels, Inc., we have delivered about 750,000 lunch and dinner meals to our clients.

Our first office was at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Hillandale. In late 1982, we were able to move to our present location at Colesville Baptist Church on Andrew Drive. We greatly appreciate the donation of a dedicated room at the church so that we have a warm home with some storage space.

In the beginning our Intake Chairperson visited all clients before accepting them into the program. That is hard to imagine now, and the practice ceased as the number of clients grew. Now we have a team of people who help the Intake Chairperson with the intricate and time-consuming process of gathering information from new clients, talking to relatives when clients are confused, and arranging for subsidies for low-income clients. Our Client Evaluation Chairperson serves as an unofficial social worker, calling and visiting clients who need special attention.

It was in 1987 that the routing process was computerized. Up until then, routing directions were all written by consulting maps and then typing up the routes to each group of clients. Before computerization there were not as many clients to accommodate and so it was manageable, but even now, with a team of routers, we often scramble for time to put new clients on the routes. Not only do we sometimes have to go out to find the client because the maps aren't quite specific enough, but the directions have to be written clearly enough so that our volunteers can follow them—not always an easy task.

In 1995, C-4 Meals on Wheels became Colesville Meals on Wheels, Inc. The organization had been named after the founding group, but the board decided it would be more helpful to the community to rename the group using our geographic identity.

Volunteers are another subject. The volunteers at any Meals on Wheels organization are the heart's blood of the group. They are the ones who serve day in and day out. They are our most treasured asset and yet they are doing this important work, giving of their valuable time, for nothing more than a couple of cookies and a thank you. We are constantly looking for more of these angel-volunteers. Not only do we rely on more than 100 regular drivers and deliverers, but from time to time we need volunteers for other roles, such as organizing each day's deliveries (called CODs -- our Coordinators of the Day), or serving as a back-up to the Treasurer, or working from home as Routers.

The clients are not the only ones who have benefited from this service. We volunteers have met many lovely clients and have become concerned about and attached to some of them, often doing extra things for them. Surely our lives are richer for having met them. Many of us have formed lasting friendships with our fellow volunteers. We have been touched by the love of God in those who cared enough to create our organization and by the service we have done for others and their reaching back to us with their gratitude.

After 40 years of service to our community we find we have come full circle. We still worry about money. We still worry about getting enough volunteers. We still worry about the makeup of the meals, and we are still concerned about the welfare of our clients. The greatest constant is the wonderful, heart-felt dedication of our gracious volunteers. They bring the face of God to needy people in our community.

NOTE: This overview was edited by Annie McLane, Becky Hedin, Gloria Bartholomew, and Pam Jones in December 2015.

About Riderwood:  Riderwood is one of nineteen continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living.  Located in Silver Spring, Maryland, the scenic 120-acre campus is home to more than 2,500 residents.  Riderwood is the ideal greater Washington, D.C. retirement destination offering a true sense of community, convenience beyond compare and a sensible financial structure. 

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