MERRILLVILLE | As the number of senior citizens at risk of going hungry grows in Lake County, so does the need for support at Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana.
The organization prepares nearly 2,000 meals each day, which are delivered to Lake County senior citizens in need, said Sandra Noe, the group's executive director.
A $5,000 grant recently received from the Meals on Wheels Association of America and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation helped the local organization restore nearly 800 meals that were at risk of being cut.
While appreciative of the grant, additional financial support is needed to ensure meal services aren't impacted, Noe said.
She said more than 7,000 senior citizens in Lake County are at risk of hunger, and the senior community is growing.
"We need to make sure our seniors are not living without a meal," Noe said.
She said meals are delivered Monday through Friday throughout Lake County. Nearly a third of Meals on Wheels clients have indicated the meal they receive is the only meal they eat on some days.
Noe said many area residents don't know the service provided by the organization is available, and that Meals on Wheels provides meals to people of all ages.
Tula Gogolak, director of community relations and development at the Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana, said some clients have indicated the meal service has improved their independence and allowed them to stay in their homes.
Gogolak said helping seniors stay in their residences can keep communities "vibrant" because homes aren't left vacant.
In addition to financial support, Meals on Wheels always needs volunteers, especially those who can deliver meals in East Chicago, Gary and Hobart, Noe said.
"There are a lot of clients in those areas," she said.
The volunteer schedule is flexible, Noe said. Some deliver meals once a month while others have delivery routes multiple times a week.
Meals on Wheels has a professional staff that prepares the meals to make sure standards are high, but volunteers can assist the staff, Noe said.
People seeking meal service and those interested in donating or volunteering can contact Meals on Wheels at (219) 756-3663.
Noe encourages people interested in donating or volunteering to visit the Merrillville facility at 8446 Virginia St. to see how Meals on Wheels operates.
The visit can help people "really understand the impact we make," Noe said.