Before there was a Pratt Regional Medical Center Auxiliary, before there was a ready cadre of volunteers to do all the things that are often taken for granted, a group of women established a program that serves a need in the community more than 40 years later.


Before there was a Pratt Regional Medical Center Auxiliary, before there was a ready cadre of volunteers to do all the things that are often taken for granted, a group of women established a program that serves a need in the community more than 40 years later.

Meals on Wheels was established in 1970 by “a bunch of good-hearted ladies who wanted to help their neighbor,” in the words of Stephanie Becker, PRMC dietitian. Margaret Porter and Earlene Kanady were in that group; they think the idea may have come from Evelyn Hillard, who was director of the Red Cross for many years. The format they established is still in use, with a few modifications.

The meals are prepared in the hospital kitchen and delivered by volunteers coordinated by local churches. Recipients pay $3 a meal, a figure that hasn’t changed since the 1980s, although it may have to go up to cover costs, and collection is made once a week. Meals are delivered five days a week.

Arrangements for meals are often made with a hospital social worker who visits patients before they are dismissed to make sure they will be able to take care of themselves at home, Becker said. The service was originally limited to people who are homebound, but that rule has been relaxed to include people who can get out but may not be able to prepare their own meals. The service may be needed for just a short time or is available for a longer term.

Becker draws a comparison between Meals on Wheels and school meals, which provide one nutritious, hot meal a day.

“If they get one hot meal they think better and are generally in better health,” she said.

Meals on Wheels existed in Pratt before Friendship Meals, which emphasizes the social aspects of eating together, in addition to receiving a nutritious meal. Becker encourages people to take advantage of Friendship Meals if they can; people eat better in a group setting, she said.

Meals on Wheels was also available before Lifeline — “sometimes we were the lifeline,” Becker noted, referring to the special necklace that clients can use to call for help in the event of an emergency.

Volunteer drivers are instructed to report any changes in the client’s health or living situation to the coordinator, who also has contact information for family members.

“If they didn’t answer the door, we need to know why,” Porter commented.

Volunteering takes about an hour in the middle of the day, she said, and they can always use more volunteers.

“Many of the drivers are in their 80s, so we don’t send them out on ice,” Porter commented.

When weather is bad, Becker or Susan Lynch, the hospital guest services coordinator, fill in, and there are some community members they can call on for help. The aim is that clients never miss a meal; they can even receive two at once, with one refrigerated for supper.

“It is a service to people, and I think it is an important service. People need these meals,” Porter said.