The funding will include grants, special projects, and emergency aid – from building basketball courts and reading and learning centers, to meal delivery for homebound seniors, to healthcare for uninsured children, and continued support for those struggling during the pandemic.
“We are thrilled to announce our commitment of $1 million for the first time ever,” said Mavs Foundation President Katie Edwards. “The need is greater than ever across the North Texas community, and we are grateful for the opportunity to support local nonprofits doing such critical work.”
Throughout the season, the Mavericks will highlight selected organizations to share more about their mission and commitment to helping families across the region.
This week we will take a look at an organization called Meals on Wheels Collin County, a nonprofit that provides over 1,200 meals five days a week for homebound disabled and older adults each week.
Zella Tyson is the Chief Executive Officer of Meals on Wheels Collin County, where she also served as the Director of Operations prior to becoming CEO. She has over 20 years experience in nonprofit leadership impacting at-risk and disenfranchised populations.
“Meals on Wheels Collin County is committed to battling the fight against hunger as we deliver essential meals to our senior community,” Tyson said. “Through this contact we also give hope to those seniors in isolation through the smiles of each volunteer.”
This mission is working. From the moment you walk into the Meals on Wheels facility, there is an energy and excitement of hope from the employees to the volunteers. Everyone is committed to giving back in their own ways, whether through preparing food or dropping off meals.
Debbie Cave has volunteered here for nearly four years. She arrives twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays to prepare the vegetables and main dish to be cooked the next day. She lives in Melissa and says it’s an honor to serve the people in her county.
Healthy food is a gift that many people take for granted, she said.
“I lived in Houston before and worked at a food bank,” Cave said. “When I moved here, I wanted to volunteer and give back however I could, so I started volunteering here nearly four years ago. I like it because it’s very active and I like the atmosphere. Everyone is really kind to me and it’s like a family. It gives me something to do and give back to the community.”
Meals on Wheels Collin County received a $25,000 grant from the Mavs Foundation to boost support to combat hunger in the region. They were also honored during halftime of a Mavs’ game earlier this season.
Meals on Wheels is a program that delivers meals to individuals at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals. Collin County serves individuals over the age of 60 who are primarily homebound and are often in isolation and hungry. This is especially true in this county, where many of the towns and cities are stretched far and wide and that means it’s harder for older people to get food on their own.
Oftentimes, the Meals on Wheels volunteer is the only person a senior might see and interact with during the week.
The organization is key to the seniors’ lives and well-being. Meals on Wheels Collin County doesn’t believe in just delivering any food and calling it a day. Rather, they are deeply committed to health and nutrition and each meal is designed by a licensed staff dietitian and prepared in the organization’s on-site kitchen.
“We make sure they get enough calories and protein and vitamins and minerals each meal,” said Annette Payne, Licensed Dietician for Meals on Wheels Collin County. “We plan our meals out way in advance. We have a six-week cycle menu, and that means that same meal is not served more than once every six weeks. The seniors really get a huge variety of meals.”
In addition to delivering the meals to homebound seniors and disabled adults throughout the county, Meals on Wheels offers its Seniors Safety Net program. The additional support services provided by that program include access to emergency supplies such as hygiene items, incontinence supplies and pet food.
They tell us here that the COVID-19 crisis led to even more senior isolation and hunger for people across the region. For this reason, they said the funds granted by the Mavs Foundation will directly provide a lifeline to at-risk seniors in the county.
“We know that here in Collin County, for about roughly about 20 percent of our clients, this is the only meal they receive in a day,” Payne said. “They depend on us, we need those volunteers to deliver the meals. If we don’t show up, they don’t eat for the day. That’s what motivates us here.”
The Collin County organization has outstanding volunteers, but they say it’s imperative to find additional meal delivery volunteers to help bring meals to older adults. With the pandemic and soaring costs of gas and food, the need to help people on fixed incomes will likely only increase in the future.
Debbie Cave, the volunteer we shared about earlier, said she wishes others knew just how fulfilling it can be to serve.
“If it’s not Meals on Wheels, I really just encourage people to check out different organizations,” Cave shared. “There’s always something others can do with their free time. It’s really important because a lot of these organizations don’t exist without volunteers. They can’t necessarily afford the staff and pay someone. So volunteers are the heartbeat behind many places like Meals on Wheels. It’s really a great thing and I encourage others to give back because it makes you feel good inside.”
Just as the Mavericks were wrapping up our tour at Meals on Wheels Collin County, we had a peek into the heart behind the organization. As we stood under a beautiful January sky, volunteer drivers started showing up.
One-by-one they gently picked up the meals they’d soon deliver to the seniors. There was no fanfare and they didn’t seek any extra attention. Rather, they simply went about their business and picked up the food that might be the only hot and fresh meal the clients on their route received that week.
I couldn’t help but smile at the extraordinary work of this foundation and the people behind it all. I witnessed servanthood leadership in action and there was just something so pure and different about Meals on Wheels Collin County. A sense of unity and hope was on display. It wasn’t just something we saw, but what we felt.