A hot meal is something that should never be taken for granted.
Especially as one’s hair grays and body moves slower, a hot meal can be a hard thing to come by.
Cue Yukon Mobile Meals.
Joanne Oltmanns and her crew provide lunch for 80 to 85 Yukon residents five days a week, except holidays. Between Monday and Friday, the non-profit cooks up meals in their kitchen in the back of the Dale Robertson Center, packages them up and then sends volunteers on their way to deliver them throughout the city.
Oltmanns said only residents that live in the city limits are eligible for the meal program. About one-third are unable to pay the suggested $1.50 daily meal fee, the director said, so generous donations make it possible for them to eat.
“We are not a federal program but instead a private program that serves homebound residents that cannot drive,” Oltmanns said. The average age of participants is around 80 but she said others are in their 60s and into their 90s.
Sometimes, a participant will receive meals temporarily while they recover from hip or knee surgery, Oltmanns said. Families find peace in knowing a Mobile Meals driver checks on their loved one daily, she added.
“We always say that we deliver a smile and a meal.”
At times, drivers discover more than a hungry senior waiting on their meal. “We have found people in emergency situations where we have had to call their next of kin or even 911.”
“To the children of our people that means the most that someone is checking on them.”
Oltmanns said volunteers are what keep the program going. It takes six routes to deliver all of the food, and three volunteers plus the cook in the kitchen. Normally, route drivers have someone with them, like a family member or friend, to make getting in and out of the vehicle go faster, she said.
And often, meals deliverers know which houses they can expect to be tied up for a few extra minutes for visiting. Oltmanns said often, participants see no one else that day besides their delivery person.
“We really do have excellent volunteers,” the director said while tying ribbon on a package of homemade pumpkin bread made just that morning in the kitchen.
The bread is just a small gesture by the program to give thanks to its dedicated volunteers.
In order to get a meal, participants are asked to call in before 9 a.m. for delivery between 10:45 a.m. and noon. Oltmanns plans meals a month at a time but says they are subject to change. “We can get donations or items we need to use so the menu can change sometimes.”
Although there is no choice of menu, the program is occasionally able to send a sugar free dessert to their diabetic recipients.
Cook Jason Copeland arrives at 7:30 a.m. each day to begin preparations. He is later joined by volunteers at 9 a.m. who help him prep and package the food for delivery. They are loaded up into large ice chests and then carried out to vehicles.
At 10:15 on the dot, the kitchen staff becomes a scene of fast hands and focused faces on one mission.
Oltmanns works part-time with Mobile Meals as the director about four hours a day, she said. Previously, she worked for the city for 30 years doing special events, with 15 years of that time shared as the full-time director of the program. Her salary is paid for by the City of Yukon as she is the program’s liaison to the city and the Mobile Meals pays for its only employee, the cook.
Oltmanns has lived in Yukon since 1973. She has two children and nine grandchildren she says keeps her very busy and live in the Yukon area.
There are many ways the Yukon Mobile Meals program needs support. Volunteers are needed to drive routes and help prepare meals, and sponsors are needed for financial support.
Volunteers can sign up for weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly. There are many donation options to sponsor a person’s meals for the week, month or the year. This costs $7.50 weekly, $30 for the month and $360 for the whole year.
Yukon Mobile Meals recently did a “Mobile Molly” fundraiser, raising $3,000, and also sales tables for the annual administrative professionals’ luncheon.