Elizabeth Forward Meals on Wheels program changing hands
By Eric Slagle
Published: Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 1:36 a.m.
Elizabeth Forward Meals on Wheels' kitchen is closing next month, but the program will continue distributing meals to local homes.
Volunteers from the program, based at Central Highlands United Methodist Church, on Friday met with officials from Lutheran Services, which administers the food delivery program, and Springboard Kitchens, a nonprofit organization that collects food, to discuss the change, expected to take effect on March 4.
Food preparation for the Elizabeth Forward and South Park Meals on Wheels programs is being shifted to a kitchen at First United Methodist Church in Clairton, already serving Clairton's meal program.
The move is part of Lutheran Services' efforts to consolidate services among the 38 local meal delivery programs it oversees in order to cut operating costs.
Lutheran Services site coordinator Michele Taylor said the Clairton site is being selected because it is the most central location among the three programs it now will serve. She said the kitchen also has greater oven capacity.
She said a secondary factor considered in the move to Clairton is that the rent paid to the facility there will help the church keep its doors open. The rent is about $200 cheaper at the Elizabeth Township church but she said the income is less detrimental to that church's future.
Many attending the meeting said they were unhappy with the way the Elizabeth Forward program has been run by Lutheran Services for the past three years. Though the program always had ties to Lutheran Services because of its tax status, the agency had for many years taken a mostly hands-off approach to running the meal program.
Geoffrey Zak of Lutheran Services said that changed when rising costs forced his agency to begin regionalizing kitchens to lower operational costs. He acknowledged that meal programs lost the trust of many volunteers when the switch was made and said his agency could have done a better job communicating with those affected by the consolidation of services.
“We want to bring the community spirit back into Meals on Wheels,” Zak said.
Dorothy Howell, who founded the Elizabeth Forward program in 1981, was among many at the meeting who felt the program had suffered under Lutheran Services.
“We were self sufficient,” said Howell, who noted that, after Lutheran Services took over, the local program lost access to its own funding. Howell said the quality of food also suffered as did local donations.
Howell said one volunteer has safety concerns about going to Clairton early in the morning to prepare food. Howell also said she didn't know if she'd continue volunteering once the local kitchen closes.
John and June Stefl said Tuesday was their last day of volunteering after 16 years.
“It used to be fun,” June Stefl said. “Now it's just stressful.”
She said she and her husband are looking into volunteering at McKeesport Light of Life Mission instead.
Other volunteers like Joe Amatangelo said they would stay on with the local program.
Amatangelo said, as a driver, he wouldn't be affected by the changes much. He'll still pick up his meals at the township church.
As to the need to lower costs, he added, “I can see where they're coming from. The money is not there.”
Tod Shoenberger from Springboard Kitchens said he is willing to meet with volunteers to discuss ways of improving food quality.
Lutheran Services officials said they would like to make the meetings with volunteers a regular occurrence.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Newsmaker: Toni Silva
- Man found fatally shot in Larimer a mile away from Homewood peace march
- Officials ID Elizabeth Township man as West End train victim
- Everest avalanche kills 12 in peak’s deadliest climb
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- Bullied South Fayette student’s case prompts wiretap overhaul legislation
- Work on tournament-class dek hockey rink in Bloomfield to begin
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Obama hopes to replicate CCAC job training efforts across United States
- District attorney’s office takes paperwork from Wilkinsburg Middle School