Meals on Wheels People and Bank of America Come Together to Feed Seniors
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in traffic on OR-217, you may have noticed a rather unique billboard. Its electronic numbers update frequently, tracking the meals that nonprofit Meals on Wheels People has served to seniors in Multnomah, Washington and Clark counties since 1970. That lofty figure is upward of 35 million and always growing.
Showiness isn’t really Meals on Wheels People’s style - the eye-catching, roadside sign is a gift from a generous outside donor. Its impact, however, and that of the organization is truly hard to ignore, as they strive to ensure that no senior will ever go hungry or experience social isolation.
It’s an honorable mission that other companies in Portland can get on board with. For more than a decade, Bank of America has been a proud partner of Meals on Wheels People, offering financial support for a variety of projects, and their latest contribution is groundbreaking.
In early 2019, Meals on Wheels People’s innovative restaurant venture, The Diner Vancouver, opened to the public, representing a one-of-a-kind community gathering place. At first glance, the eatery appears to be a charming, mid-century spot, serving comfort fare like burgers, eggs benedict and acclaimed pie. Underneath the classic decor and neon signs, there lies an even deeper significance. Marketing Director Julie Piper Finley explains what makes it different: “If you are aged 60 or older, are enrolled in the Meals on Wheels People program, and you order off our special senior menu, you can donate what you can afford toward the cost of your meal.” With the loose change in their pockets, seniors can enjoy nutritious food while also contributing to a larger purpose, and the model shows that other full-paying customers will balance out expenses.
Every little bit helps, but in February, Bank of America took the giving to a new level, revealing Meals on Wheels People and The Diner Vancouver as the recipients of its 2019 Neighborhood Builders Award. This exceptional combination of leadership training, volunteer support, networking and an unprecedented $200,000 in flexible funding is an invaluable boost. “It really is transformational for us,” Finley says. “We’ve only been open a few months and the gift from Bank of America will provide operating expenses for us moving forward, helping to offset our overhead cost as we really get the business going.”
“We’re excited to be directing this additional support to ensure even more local seniors have nutritious options while maintaining their independence,” says Monique Barton, a senior vice president at Bank of America. “We’re optimistic that this new diner will make a real difference in helping Meals on Wheels People achieve even more financial sustainability, to further expand its resources to address need in Clark County and throughout the Portland Metro region.”
Open every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., The Diner Vancouver welcomes customers of all ages and represents the additional benefit of intergenerational interaction for seniors, a vital aspect of wellbeing for older adults. “If you want to come in and have pancakes with your granddaughter, you can do that. Maybe you want to have a late lunch with your neighbor Bob, or even eat by yourself,” says Finley.
The intimate relationship between Meals on Wheels People and Bank of America doesn’t end there. Take, for instance, Portland Monthly’s Cowabunga: powered by Toyota, the magazine’s second annual weekend culinary extravaganza invites attendees to taste the best of Portland and experience top chefs at work, up close and personal. At Cowabunga, Bank of America is sponsoring a special VIP (“Volunteers Impact People”) section, a dedicated space for volunteers, chefs, and partners to meet, mingle, and relax. A portion of all ticket sales for certain Cowabunga events — Seared on Friday night, Farm to Fork on Saturday afternoon, and Country Brunch on Sunday — will benefit Meals on Wheels People, who in turn is providing more than 280 individual volunteers. If you have questions about the Meals on Wheels People mission or how to get involved, Meals on Wheels People ambassadors are available to share that information.
With more exposure comes more support from the community — and fewer seniors going hungry.
The Diner Vancouver is located at 5303 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98661