Sturgis church takes on Meals on Wheels during Rally

August 11, 2018

STURGIS — Bea Wilson opens her front door and welcomes in George Kane who has a bag in tow with lunches for Wilson and her husband, Ernest.

She said that she feels beyond blessed that local volunteers pick up the meal service for the elderly and home-bound during the week of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

What would seniors do if there were no delivery?

“I’d have to cook for us, I guess. And I’m legally blind,” Wilson added.

Instead, the Wilsons enjoyed meals of tater-tot hot dish, fruit, and a brownie on Monday.

The meals are prepared and packaged by members of the Sturgis United Methodist Church. Volunteers both from the church and from First Interstate Bank deliver the meals.

The meals are a change of pace from the weekly Meals on Wheels fare they get from the local senior citizen’s center. The volunteers see the effort as a church service project.

“We decided a long time ago that we did not want to do like a pancake breakfast during the Rally because we are located out of the stream of the traffic,” said organizer Sue Chaplin.

When they found out that the senior citizens’ center closed during Rally week and suspended delivery of senior meals, church members decided to take up the duty in 2006.

“First we did it one day, then we did it three days, and finally we said, ‘Oh! We can handle this,’ so we went to five days,’” Chaplin said.

The church does not charge, but many on the delivery route make a donation to the church, which last year in turn donated those funds to the meals program at the Meade County Senior Center.

The meals are prepared in the church’s commercial kitchen which routinely gets a visit by the health inspector during rally week. Chaplin said the inspector looks to make sure foods are cooked to the correct temperature and that pans and utensils are washed in the proper manner.

Each work day begins early with preparing the meals. Organizers learned early on that making four 9-by-13-inch pans of each of the meals will serve the needed 48 portions.

Once the meals come out of the oven, Sturgis UMC Pastor Jenene Earl joins hands with the volunteers in a circle outside the kitchen and offers prayers both for those preparing the meals and those who will receive them.

Then, the foods are lined-up along a counter in the church kitchen and dished into closeable Styrofoam containers. Hot items have their own section. Desserts and a roll are placed in the other sections. The containers are closed, wrapped in a plastic bag, then placed in a box that goes to a specific zone in town.

In addition to tater-tot hot dish, other menu items this year include ham, meatloaf, chicken and rice, and Swiss steak with farm-fresh corn off the cob. Desserts included fresh baked cookies, angel food cake, applesauce, and pie.

“We try to make them homemade and as tasty as we can,” Chaplin said.

On Friday, following delivery of the final meals, all those who volunteer enjoy a potluck lunch.

“We treat the people that have been working all week — the drivers and the runners and the dishers and whomever,” Chaplin said.

All together, there are about 30 volunteers who make the project a success.

“It’s nice to know we are filling a need in our community,” Chaplin said.

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