Meals on Wheels of Stark & Wayne Counties and Vantage Aging, which delivers meals throughout Summit County, are merging their operations.

The two nonprofits announced the union Tuesday, saying the move will allow them to operate more efficiently as the need for senior services and the elderly population in the area are outpacing funding.

"We are always looking for opportunities to leverage our resources and Stark & Wayne Counties is facing the same struggle," said Dawn Moeglin, director of community engagement at Vantage Aging. "It made sense to work together."

She stressed that clients will not see any changes and will continue to receive their meals and other services designed to keep people living independently.

Together, the Meals on Wheels programs serve about 1,500 elderly and disabled individuals, and deliver nearly 600,000 meals each year in Stark, Summit and Wayne counties. The agencies also offer other meals that people can attend and senior programming.

"By combining our competencies and common goals, we will be stronger and able to offer more services to benefit Stark and Wayne counties,” Meals on Wheels CEO Ted Watko said in a prepared statement. “Consolidation of administrative tasks, including payroll, community engagement and client management systems will allow for program expansion and more sustainability."

The merger takes effect in January. The two agencies — Vantage Aging is based in Akron and Meals on Wheels is in Massillon — are now working on the logistics.

Vantage Aging and Meals on Wheels run different delivery models, with Vantage Aging providing frozen meals while Stark & Wayne Counties offers a combination of hot and bagged meals. Vantage Aging also pays its drivers, while Stark & Wayne Counties uses volunteers.

The agencies are analyzing which model — or a combination of the two — works best. There also has been no decision made about relocating either agency before a full evaluation is completed.

The agencies don't anticipate any cutbacks in personnel.

"Our goal is to grow," Moeglin said.

In Summit County, 24 percent of the population is 60 years or older, up from 19.5 percent a decade earlier, according to the Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey report. The percentage has grown from 21.4 percent to 26.8 percent in Stark; and from 18.7 percent to 24.7 percent in Wayne over the same time period.


Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.