These are busy days at Mobile Meals Inc.
A new leader is running the nonprofit agency, which last year served more people than ever. And, for the first time, Mobile Meals is asking the public for general operating support following the loss of nearly $300,000 in federal funding.
Lorie M. Travaglino took over as president and chief executive officer of the 41-year old agency in February. She succeeded Kathleen D. Downing, who retired after 26 years of service.
“It is important that people understand our story and that we need help,” said Travaglino, 39, of North Canton. She previously worked in a variety of administrative positions with the Salvation Army in New Jersey and New York and recently worked as director of community building and initiatives with the United Way of Greater Stark County.
“There is a greater need out there” for services, said Travaglino, who is paid $66,500 a year. The agency spends 8.6 percent of its budget on administrative costs.
The agency, through about 40 paid drivers and 250 volunteers, provided meals to nearly 4,300 shut-ins and others across Summit, Medina, Portage, Cuyahoga and Lorain counties in 2011. Clients range in age from 4 months to 106 years old.
So far this year, the number of meals and clients has decreased following cuts in governmental funding.
Clients at the poverty level receive the $7.25-a-day meals at no cost, subsidized by federal dollars. Others are charged based on their ability to pay; the agency asks that those who can pay do so with a minimum of $3.50 a day.
Last year, Mobile Meals delivered about 3,500 meals a day, but spokesman Phil Marcin said that number has fallen to below 3,000 because of the federal cuts. The agency also delivers frozen food and supplements to clients.
The agency has held fundraising campaigns, including a 2008 capital endowment campaign that raised $750,000.
Dr. Dale Murphy, a former board member and an internal medicine physician, along with his wife, Cindy, also solicit funds for the agency each fall from professional friends in the community. Starting in 1989, the efforts of the Murphys have raised more than $500,000 for the agency. Last year, the Richfield couple was named Outstanding Philanthropists of the Year by the North Central Ohio Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
The agency spends slightly more than $5 million a year. Federal and state government and related funding amounts to 84 percent of Mobile Meals’ budget.
The drive to raise about $15,000 from local donors begins this month and probably will become an annual drive. If $15,000 is raised, the agency will get a matching $15,000 from its foundation.
“Clearly, as an organization, we have experienced exponential growth across the Northeastern Ohio region over the last several year,” she said. “In difficult financial times, we call ourselves to be guided by core mission values, fiscal prudence, new collaborations and support from our community.”
Checking on residents
Travaglino said the agency helps clients in more ways than providing meals and supplements. It helps by checking on clients who often are living at home alone.
“We know families feel safe because, while they may not be able to get there every day, our drivers are checking” on clients, she said.
A few years ago, a Mobile Meals driver discovered a Bath Township man who had been beaten in a home invasion and robbery, Travaglino said.
“Our drivers are their first connection,” she said.
Each day, staff and volunteer drivers, facing higher and higher gasoline prices, drive 110 routes. Travaglino said more volunteer drivers are always needed.
Hope and Merle Long of Green, both retired Coventry school teachers, are appreciative of the meals delivered to their home every day.
“It makes quite a difference,” said Hope Long, 93.
Last week, volunteer driver Barbara Mattern stopped by the Goodyear Heights home of Janet Terrell, 78, to drop off a meal. She has delivered to Terrell, a mother of four and grandmother of seven who does not drive, for about a dozen years.
“It has really helped me,” said Terrell, who receives five hot meals and two frozen meals each week.
Mattern, 71, a former schoolteacher and former Mobile Meals board member, has volunteered for nearly 35 years as a driver. She said she has discovered several people who had fallen during her time as a volunteer driver.
“One lady had fallen and had already opened the door. When I got there, I yelled, ‘Mobile Meals,’ and she said, ‘I’m back here,’ ” she said.
The families are glad, she said, that “someone is checking in on their loved ones.”
Along with the obvious nutritional benefits, Travaglino said the agency offers comfort to families.
“It is respite care for families — knowing that someone is checking on them,” she said.
To donate to Mobile Meals, send a check made out to Mobile Meals Inc., to 1063 S. Broadway, Akron, OH 44311.
For more information, call 330-376-7717 or go to www.mobilemealsinc.org.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at email@example.com.