A 25-year veteran of the public relations and development industry, Marlene LeRoy now serves as the director of public relations and development at Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island. As a young adult, LeRoy was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels of R.I. and became passionate about helping seniors and the homebound. She has been with Meals on Wheels of R.I. for more than four years, and previously worked with the Rhode Island Historical Society, the American Cancer Society and several other nonprofits. She also worked as a director of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina. She spent several years as a development and public relations freelance consultant.
PBN: Celebrating its 48th year of serving Rhode Islanders with a monthlong awareness campaign, what have been the greatest achievements of the organization?
LEROY: At Meals on Wheels of R.I., we see the difference we make every day in the lives of the seniors and homebound we feed and keep safe and the family members and caregivers who experience peace of mind knowing we are taking care of their loved one. These are great accomplishments we provide every day through daily nutritious meals and safety and wellness checks with a friendly volunteer visit. In many instances, we have saved lives and can say we are truly much more than a meal.
Our monthlong Senior Hunger Awareness Campaign (March for Meals) brings all this to the forefront. We collaborate with corporate leaders and our elected officials who deliver meals throughout the communities, when they see and hear firsthand the needs of our senior population. This strong effort ensures our seniors are not forgotten.
PBN: What is the most important thing to know about elder care and this demographic’s access to nutritional meals?
LEROY: Our services directly address issues that are critical to vulnerable homebound and senior residents. In fact, according to the Administration on Aging 2016 report and the Brown University “More Than a Meal” study (2015); residents receiving daily-delivered meals are more likely to report improvements in mental and physical health, reductions in feelings of isolation and anxiety, and lower rates of hospitalization and falls. The same AoA report shows the cost of a year’s worth of home-delivered meals is the same as one day in the hospital, or one week in a nursing home; thus, saving the state millions in Medicaid and Medicare costs. Rhode Island has one of the highest concentrations of seniors in the United States and it is projected by the U.S. Census Bureau that 100,000 seniors will be added to our R.I. population by 2030.
PBN: From what sources does Meals on Wheels receive its funding and how does it use these monies?
LEROY: The agency is funded through a combination of federal and state sources as well as individual donations. Our current budget is approximately 44 percent federal funding and 19 percent state funding that comes through the R.I. Division of Elderly Affairs. The remaining 37 percent comes from other sources, including individual, corporate and foundation funding – this community support is crucial to the continuing operation of our programs, as governmental funds have remained at the same level for many years.
PBN: Delivered by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, Meals on Wheels delivered its 18 millionth meal last July. What does this milestone mean to you?
LEROY: We started with 10 volunteers serving 17 clients on a single route in 1969 and now served our 18 millionth meal – that is quite a milestone! From that single focus, we have expanded to 700 volunteers over 79 routes across the entire state. In 2016, we delivered 345,262 meals to over 2,500 homebound and seniors, assuring our clients are fed, safe and receive necessary social interaction. Reaching this milestone demonstrates how much we have grown and adapted our services and programming to meet Rhode Island seniors’ needs.
PBN: What do you wish more people knew about eligibility for Meals on Wheels programming?
LEROY: Clients aged 60 or older are eligible for the Capital City Café program; and for the Home Delivered program, one must be aged 60 or older and be homebound. Our federal funding has several eligibility and service stipulations; namely, the programs do not have an economic threshold for eligibility. Another stipulation of this funding is that there is no charge for the meals. We do ask for a suggested donation of $3 per meal, however, no one is ever denied a meal if they can’t donate.
Anyone can sign up for services or learn more about our programs by calling our office at (401) 351-6700 or visiting www.rimeals.org.