Over 4.9 million meals later, Lubbock Meals on Wheels celebrates 50th anniversary

Local News

LUBBOCK, Texas — Lubbock Meals on Wheels is celebrating its fifty years of service to the Lubbock community and reflect on the past fifty years.

Lisa Gilliand said West Texas Home Health was the founding part of Lubbock Meals on Wheels back in 1971.

“They took us on as a project and created a separate entity, ‘Lubbock Meals on Wheels’ and make it a 501 c 3 charitable organization,” said Gilliand. “It’s great to be part of such an amazing vision that they had, that they knew there were homebound citizens that needed some additional assistance.”

Over the years, the organization adopted a permeant location on 34th street where they incorporated a kitchen to make their meals. They also added a volunteer center to their location and started delivering pet food.

“We found that a lot of our clients that did have dogs or cats, they were feeding a portion of their own food to that pet because, obviously, they can’t get their own food, so they couldn’t get food for that animal,” said Gilliland.

Gilliand said one of the biggest things that changed was the way the organization was funded.

“For the first three years, we relied on title 3 government funds,” said Gilliland. “Then in 1981, we decided we would go off on our own and just raise money, and we’ve continued to do so to this day.”

In 1971 Lubbock Meals on Wheels delivered 1,221 meals for the year. Since then, the organization has served over 20,000 meals annually, which Gilliland said is due to dedication from staff and volunteers.

“Everybody takes the mission to heart,” said Gilliland. “I’ve had volunteers that say they’re having a bad day, and by the time they get back from their route, they’re like, ‘You know what? I really needed to do this today, it really changed my perspective, and I’m not having a bad day.'”

Lubbock Meals on Wheels has more than 1700 volunteers, which Gilliland said are dedicated.

Ninety-two-year-old Rita Pettigrew said she has been volunteering with the organization for the past 25 years. She said she would continue to volunteer as long as it continued to make her happy.

“I like the people, and I like to help people,” said Pettigrew. “My route gets changed periodically, I’m always the same route, but people get put on and get taken off, so I meet different people and become friends with them.”

Mary Gerlach, assistant director at Lubbock Meals on Wheels, said some of the most memorable moments have been celebrating 100th birthdays with clients. Gerlach said she hopes to see the organization grow in the next half-decade.

“I can see over the next fifty years where we might be able to really expand and also have satellite locations so that people can pick up meals in different locations closer to where they will be delivering and allowing us to serve many more people,” said Gerlach.

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