Local Meals on Wheels center is trying to serve more in Camas and Washougal

Meals for all seniors

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Volunteer Bessie Jarrel jokes with David Sanks at the Washougal Community Center during lunch, served daily by the Meals on Wheels People. The organization's goal is to expand the home delivery program to at least 100 people. "Right now we only serve 40, and that's a shame," Washougal Center Manager Wanda Nelson said. "There are so many more people we can help."

Many think Meals on Wheels is a charity service, but this is far from the truth.

“It comes down to ability,” said Wanda Nelson, manager for the Washougal center. “Can you stand at a stove or drive your car? If you can’t, and are 60 or older, you are eligible to have a hot meal delivered to your home. It has nothing to do with income level. Our biggest fight is getting those facts out to people.”

Washougal Meals on Wheels People, previously known as the Loaves & Fishes Center, serves meals to approximately 40 seniors in the area, a number that Nelson said needs to increase.

“There are folks that we are not finding in the rural areas and I’m worried about that,” Nelson said. “There is not a road in Camas or Washougal that I won’t drive or send one of my drivers. No one lives too remotely for this service. I will get a driver there.”

Meals on Wheels is donation based, and those who can afford to may donate $3 or more per meal. If they cannot afford to contribute, that is fine as well, according to Nelson.

“If you can, you can, and if you don’t, you don’t,” she said. “I’d like to serve more around 100 people per day. Not only do we provide a good, hot meal, but we’re the eyes and ears for these seniors, too.”

For example, one of the clients has ongoing financial problems, which resulted in her power being shut off last winter. She was in an electrical bed and unable to move. There were no lights or heat in the home.

“My driver called to tell me about the situation, and I called the fire department, who contacted Clark Public Utilities,” Nelson said. “Her power was back on within the hour.”

Meals on Wheels also delivers frozen meals to seniors who need extra help on the weekends.

“If someone calls me, I can have them on the delivery route the next day,” Nelson said. “We’re still fairly new to Clark County and just getting the word out and letting people know we offer this service can be the biggest challenge at times.”

Meals on Wheels is also in need of drivers. Volunteer shifts are from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Volunteers may work as many or as few shifts as they desire.

In addition to meal delivery, hot lunches are served Monday through Thursday at the Washougal Community Center, and on Fridays at the Camas Community Center.

“We serve two different kinds of meals in our dining rooms and are always looking for vegetarian options,” Nelson said. “The menu has changed quite a bit. People aren’t eating as much country fried steak anyone.”

Now, choices include items such as salmon, ginger chicken and quiche. Meals are served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a suggested donation of $3 for those 60 and older, and $6.80 for everyone else.

There are also card games, a Monday lecture series on relevant senior topics, exercise classes, art classes, bingo and karaoke.

“This is very much the social hub,” Nelson said. “The beauty of coming into this dining room is that you are going to know somebody. If not, you’ll meet someone. If you have a need or something you want to do, we try to accommodate it.”

Bessie Jarrel of Washougal volunteers to serve lunch twice a week.

“I enjoy being out of the house and having something to do,” she said. “It’s a nice place to volunteer and you can’t find nicer people.”

Seniors who come to the Community Center enjoy the camaraderie.

Lloyd Bahr receives the meal service at home, and also comes to the Community Center when his neighbors bring him in from Fern Prairie.

“Having the meals makes me feel good,” he said. “I enjoy the conversations with other people, too.”

“Talking to people and listening to them is the best part,” said Camas resident David Sanks, a regular attendee at the Community Center. “The meals and the conversations are great.”

Wayne Pattison, president of the Meals on Wheels steering committee, wants to see the organization improve communication this year.

“There are several senior programs, but a lack of knowledge about what all the offerings are,” he said. “We’ve started up the newsletter again and hope to get more information out there. Some people don’t even know this (meal) service exists. They think it is for shut-ins at home. This is not for poor people. It is a healthy lunch, a good time and good discussions for all income levels.”

For more information about Meals on Wheels, or to volunteer or receive meals at home, call Nelson at 210-5666, or E-mail