MAMOW Beginnings 1973
[Note: Dick Toren researched and wrote the story of the beginnings of the Morgantown Area Meals on Wheels for a booklet entitled "A History of the Morgantown Area Meals on Wheels 1973-2000." What follows is a summary of and some quotes from that booklet (also printed in the Morgantown Dominion-Post) plus Betty McCartney's "update" on MOW changes since 2000.]
From the beginning, the mission of the Morgantown Area Meals on Wheels has been "to deliver hot meals to home-bound persons." And on that first delivery day, February 1, 1973, five meals were delivered by three persons in one car. Stan Harris was that first driver, and the meals were carried in a "pasteboard box." From the beginning, MOW has been an all-volunteer organization with no administrative overheard, and with its entire support coming from the community. Clients have paid a nominal amount for meals, based on their ability to pay, and the very needy are served at no charge." (Clients in the early days paid a maximum of $1.25 for their main meal of the day delivered by noontime; the maximum charge had risen to only $1.70 two decades later.)
What led up to that first delivery involved the concerns and efforts of many individuals and community groups. In the early 1970s the Rev. Violet Petso was director of the Scotts Run Settlement House in Osage, sponsored by the United Methodist Church. In that role Rev. Petso became aware of the many elderly poor who were hard-pressed to obtain sufficient nourishing food, and in 1972 she began taking lunches to them. The lunches were prepared on a home-sized stove at the Settlement House day care center. Recognizing that there were likely many with the same need, Rev. Petso called together a small group of community leaders who might know of others in need. Petso recalled that group included Florence Sperow, a traveling public health nurse, and Glenna Williams, director of the Rock Forge Neighborhood House.
There were two immediate problems to be solved: to find a larger kitchen with a commercial sized stove, and to get the meals delivered. A gift of $2,000 for the stove from the Soroptimist Club (Mary Christopher was the president at the time) solved the first problem, and Margaret Nesius and Dorothy DuBois from the service committee of the Church Women United at the Baptist church agreed to enlist the volunteer drivers. Through Rev. Petso's connection with the WVU School of Social Work, two graduate students set up the structures to organize the local Meals on Wheels program effectively. They drew on examples from other Meals on Wheels programs in places like Pittsburgh and Chicago.
Those early days required frequent meetings by the first MOW Board of Directors, whose members included Arlene Anderson, Virginia Breakiron, Katherine Broderick, Dot DuBois, Edith Glenn, Johanna Householder, Dr. Marilyn Javis-Eckert, Bess Snyder Moll, Margaret Nesius, Violet Petso, Sara Phillips, Mary Jo Staddon and Glenna Williams. While women were the founders of the Morgantown MOW, men were among the drivers from the beginning and eventually numbered about 40% of the drivers, all of whom paid for their own car expenses.
Early on the new Board had to grapple with a decision on whether to seek government support (a federal grant) to ensure financial stability for the fledgling MOW. But as such a grant would have lasted only 3 years, would have required some full-time paid help, and had regulations on how clients were selected, the Board decided to keep the Morgantown Meals On Wheels an all-volunteer organization with only part-time paid professional cooks. With that decision came the need for many new kinds of volunteers, including professional nutritionists to plan meals, shoppers to buy food, a finance committee to handle bills, interviewers to determine client eligibility, route coordinators to plan efficient driver routes, publicity personnel to inform the public about the program and fund raisers to solicit donations to pay for the meals of those who were not charged.
In 1973 the Meals on Wheels program expanded its service area by delivering to the eastern part of the county although all meals continued to be prepared at Scott's Run. An editorial in the Dominion Post commented: "The extension of the county Meals-on-Wheels program to the Sabarton and Dellslow area is encouraging. Meals-on-Wheels is a practical concept whereby people help people. You can't improve on this, only extend it."
Morgantown Area Meals on Wheels
3375 University Ave
Morgantown, WV 26505