After 34 years, local churches continue to provide local meals to Tyrone residents

In September of 1969, the first-ever Meals on Wheels program in Tyrone got its roots on the genius of Dr. LeRoy Bowers, a local physician who was concerned about the hospital releasing patients who lived alone and were unable to prepare his or her own meals.
The program has undergone a number of changes over the past 34 years, including its name and days the program operates, but nonetheless, it is still delivering meals to the residents of Tyrone who need it most.
The Volunteer Church Meals program is alive and running thanks to the collaborative effort of five area churches and a slew of volunteers. These religious institutions include the First Presbyterian Church, Christ United Methodist Church, Bald Eagle United Methodist Church, Church of the Good Shepherd and St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church.
This program is conducted entirely by volunteers and receives no outside funding. All the people who participate agree that the rewards of “doing something to help” are well worth the time and effort involved. They also agree that it is fun to spend a morning cooking and chatting as they work in the kitchen.
“It’s really a great program and we’re blessed to have the generous volunteers from the community who want to help with it,” said Mary Wagner, secretary at the First Presbyterian Church in Tyrone, the program’s birthplace. “These people who volunteer their time and energy really love their community and do the best they can in helping out.”
When the program first started, the Presbyterian Church delivered a meal every Thursday, and since then, it has been a two-a-week program with meals being delivered on Tuesdays and Fridays all year long.
All meals are prepared at the Presbyterian Church on Logan Avenue in Tyrone. The menu varies, depending on which church volunteers are preparing the meals. Each participating church has a chairman who sets up a schedule for cooks and deliveries.
“Everyone does such a nice job and the food is delicious,” said Wagner, “and some of the desserts are incredible.”
Whether its spaghetti from St. Matthews, the customers’ favorite of lasagna, ham, beans and macaroni, as prepared yesterday, or hot sandwiches, the meals are always welcomed by those receiving the food in the program.
All meals are pre-planned and nutritional content is taken into consideration.
Wagner said between 30 and 40 meals are prepared each week, depending on how many people sign up for the program. She between three and five cooks arrive at about 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays to begin the preparation.
A small amount is charged for the meals for those able to pay. When the program began, the cost was just 75 cents, and now, 34 years later, the cost has risen slightly to $2.
Mid-morning, the people who deliver the meals, normally four or five, arrive to pack the meals in the coolers and see where they will deliver the meals that particular day. They travel in all kinds of weather to deliver the meals, along with a bit of cheerful conversation to their recipients.
“The meals are really appreciated, especially in bad weather,” said Wagner. “So many older people are afraid to go out on the ice to shop for food, even when they are capable of preparing it.”
Anyone who, because of age or infirmity, who is unable to prepare a nutritious meal is invited to call the church office and talk with Wagner to request a meal. The number is 684-2003. The volunteers only deliver within the town, providing their own vehicle, fuel and time.
The program is always seeking new volunteers and volunteer churches to take a turn in preparing the meals. Wagner also said because the organization is all voluntary, it relies on contributions to operate the program. Those who would like to give a donation are encouraged to make a check payable to Volunteer Church Meals and send it to the First Presbyterian Church at 102 W. 13th St., Tyrone, PA 16686.
Wagner said she wanted to take the time to thank Mrs. Betty Rodgers, who has been connected to the program since its beginning in 1969. For many years, Mrs. Rodgers was the secretary at the First Presbyterian Church and took the calls for meals, and she continues to be the treasurer of the volunteer organization.