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Zelienople-Evans City Meals on Wheels going independent

| Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 6:15 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Meals on Wheels volunteer Tom Way, 74, of New Sewickley Township, packs up a bag with meals to deliver throughout the community in the kitchen at English Lutheran Church in Zelienople on Wednesday. The Zelienople Meals on Wheels program is getting out from under Lutheran Services staring September 1st.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Meals on Wheels recipient Vida Lee McMaster, sits in her apartment in the Maple Court apartment building in Zelienople on Wednesday. McMaster says she appreciates the meals because she has trouble standing for long periods of time so it is hard for her to cook. The Zelienople Meals on Wheels program is getting out from under Lutheran Services staring September 1st.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Meals on Wheels volunteers Shirley and Paul Emmett of Zelienople, 83 and 84 respectively, deliver meals at Maple Court apartment building in Zelienople on Wednesday. The Emmett's have been volunteering with the Meals on Wheels program for over 30 years, 16 of those in Zelienople and the surrounding area. The Zelienople Meals on Wheels program is getting out from under Lutheran Services staring September 1st.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Meals on Wheels volunteers Tom Way (left), 74, of New Sewickley Township, and Judy Von Hedemann (right), 55, of Evans City, pack up bags with meals to deliver throughout the community in the kitchen at English Lutheran Church in Zelienople on Wednesday. The Zelienople Meals on Wheels program is getting out from under Lutheran Services staring September 1st.

The Zelienople-Evans City Meals on Wheels program is leaving the Lutheran Service Society, but about 45 Butler County residents who depend on daily deliveries of food won't see any changes, the program's director said.

The change is happening this month because the organization of 110 volunteers wants greater control of its finances, director Barb Kaufman said. Clients who pay $20 a week for hot meals, sandwiches, milk and other food won't see a price increase, Kaufman said.

“We just feel it's the best fit for us,” Kaufman said, pointing to a 2009 reorganization of Lutheran Service Society, in which that group took control of the program's finances. “This will allow us to become independent.”

Vida Lee McMaster, 85, a resident of Maple Court in Zelienople, thanked Shirley Emmett, 83, who delivered meals to the apartment complex with her husband, Paul Emmett, 84, on Wednesday.

Volunteers said that some clients live alone and the visit provides them with important social interaction.

“This means a lot to me,” McMaster said. “I can't stand up very much, and when you're cooking, you have to stand.”

The transition has been proceeding smoothly, said Patty Davidson, chief development officer for Lutheran Service Society, based in Ross.

“It's really what they want, and for us to try to force them to participate, we would end up losing that volunteer base, and then we'd end up struggling to provide that service to that area,” Davidson said.

“They feel they can do it, and from all indications, we feel they're organized enough.”

In 2009, Lutheran Service Society reorganized, Davidson said, giving groups the opportunity to fold into Lutheran Services or go out on their own.

Between 20 and 30 became independent, Davidson said.

The Zelienople group is the latest to do so. It has an annual budget of nearly $50,000.

Kaufman said Lutheran Service did not contribute money to the local program. Instead, it collected money earmarked for the local program, funneled it back to the local group and provided bookkeeping services.

Davidson said Lutheran Services will turn over money earmarked for the Zelienople group, but she didn't know how much that might be.

Kaufman said volunteers will continue to prepare food at the English Lutheran Church in Zelienople.

The church will handle bookkeeping duties. The group plans to buy food from local grocers and farmers.

“We're excited to go back to grass roots again,” Kaufman said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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