Last week I traveled across the river to visit the Meals on Wheels People’s Belmont Center! When I got there, I was greeted by a sweet volunteer named Laurence who directed me to the office of Ela Martinez-Moreno, the Belmont Center Manager.
Here’s a photo of Laurence. One of the many friendly faces at the Belmont Center.
As Ela gave me the tour of the center and introduced me to a few of the volunteers and seniors, I was struck by just how friendly and talkative everybody was! Everyone’s friendly at Meals on Wheels People, and the Belmont Center is a prime example.
What also stood out to me about this center was the community involvement. There’s a ton of it! Ela explained to me about several ways that they are supported by the community. Here’s a few examples:
Gleaners: It may just be me, but I’ve never heard of this group, I think they like to fly under the radar, but here’s the basics of what they do: Gleaners go to farmer’s markets throughout the Portland area and at the end of the markets, the Gleaners request the farmers to donate some of the produce that wasn’t sold, to non-profits such as Meals on Wheels People.
That means that each Monday the Belmont Center gets incredibly large donations of delicious, nutritious produce that was locally grown! Ela showed me a refrigerator filled with ripe, juicy tomatoes which will be used for meals that involve salads or sauces.
Here’s a picture of some delicious summer squash that was donated to the center.
Which leads me into another praise for the Belmont Center.
The kitchen staff works hard! The cook makes soups from scratch daily from produce that gets donated to the Belmont center! This means that the seniors there receive healthy meals!
Not only are the seniors at the Belmont center provided with delicious food, but they also have fitness classes such as yoga and Tai Chi offered to keep them active. A favorite of those at the center is Bingo night which happens four nights a week.
Another cool characteristic of the Belmont center is that they have their very own thrift store! The thrift store has been a part of the Belmont center for several years and it generates the majority of their fundraising money!
Once again, the community is very involved; several times a month the Belmont Center has music performances that allow seniors to enjoy all different genres, from classical to bluegrass.
There is an English teacher in the neighborhood who has been stalking up the shelves at the center with all sorts of books!
Ela is a hard worker and works on average 5-6 days a week, often volunteering to take weekend shifts. There are about 12 drivers each day (There’s some openings right now so you should volunteer!) and 20 volunteers working in the kitchen and in the dining area, where 60-80 seniors enjoy a fresh meal every weekday.
Before working with Meals on Wheels People, Ela had other opportunities working with non-profits and those in need. When asked what she loves about Meals on Wheels People is that you have a deep connection with those in the program. She says that there’s a lot of paperwork involved with being a Center Manager, but with Meals on Wheels People you don’t get buried in it and lose connection with others. As a Center Manager, you’re working directly with seniors and get to know them by name and be actively involved in their daily lives, because for many of them, Meals on Wheels People is their family.
Looking to volunteer?
Meals on Wheels drivers are needed on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays - 7 routes to choose from. Phone the center at 503.953.8202 to volunteer.
The Belmont Center is looking for volunteers who speak Russian. Interested? Give Ela a call at 503.953.8202.