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State College Meals on Wheels ‘the little engine that does’

by on March 14, 2013 2:52 PM

STATE COLLEGE — On a cold and windy Friday morning in March, hot meals are being prepared in the basement of Grace Lutheran Church.

A local service that has been operating for nearly 42 years, the State College Meals on Wheels provides food to more than 140 residents across 150 square miles.

In production Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, Meals on Wheels has been functioning out of the South Garner Street church since 1971, said executive director Anna Carol Buffington. Although the organization only employs three people, there are about 200 volunteers on the roster, she said. On any one of these days, about five to 10 volunteers can be seen at the church, assisting in preparation, packing and other tasks.

“Each day takes 16 drivers, one volunteer coordinator and about six kitchen workers,” she said.

Hot and cold meals, plus a beverage, are delivered to qualified State College residents. About 80 percent of these are senior citizens, Buffington said, while the rest are younger people with certain limitations or disabilities. The oldest client currently is 102, she said, and the youngest 14.

Meal preparation begins around 8 a.m., with drivers ready to head out for delivery around 11 a.m.

“Over the course of the year we do approximately 45,000 meals,” Buffington said.

The menus are planned and written by Buffington, who is a registered licensed dietician. Each meal follows federal guidelines for seniors, she said.

Mona Adams and Charles Antle, both of State College, said they volunteer every Friday at Meals on Wheels. Their main task, they said, is peeling potatoes. Each Friday they peel two five-gallon buckets of potatoes.

“That’s our specialty,” Antle said.

What the two enjoy most about volunteering is the good fellowship, they said.

“(I) feel good helping other people,” Adams said. “There’s nothing better for senior citizens to do than to volunteer.”

Buffington, who has been executive director for about 25 years, said one of the most beneficial aspects of Meals on Wheels is that it keeps people in their homes longer and helps them socialize so they don’t feel isolated.

“They’re God’s children and they need to be fed,” she said. “We are taking care of God’s children.”

Each year the demands of the State College Meals on Wheels slightly rise, Buffington said, due to new retirees. But that hasn’t hindered the agency, which raises all of its own money and doesn’t receive any government funding, she said.

“(We) operate on a shoestring budget,” she said. “We’re the little engine that does.”

To apply for Meals on Wheels, or to become a volunteer or make a donation, call (814) 237-8135 or visit

Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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