Food that is good for the body also benefits the soul

Acts of kindness are truly food for the soul, and one long-standing group in Lee’s Summit has proven for more than forty years that when one person gives, two people receive, and as a result, the heart – and the body – is nourished. Now in it is 41st year of service, Meals on Wheels of Lee’s Summit is still an integral part of the aging and homebound community. Designed to provide well-balanced and nutritious meals for elderly and disabled citizens to encourage a positive sense of worth and to allow for their independence, this organization delivers hot meals directly to the recipient’s home throughout the week on an as-requested basis.

Started by Lois Elbel and Linda Dempsey in 1974 as a way to provide meals for friends who could not get out of their homes for various health reasons, this volunteer-run/non profit organization has grown exponentially over the years and is a way to provide not only a hot meal but also a healthy dose of companionship along the way. The volunteers who deliver these meals don’t just drop off a tray, they also enjoy developing friendships with the people they serve.  Elbel and Dempsey continue as volunteer deliverers to this day.

Board President DeAun Russell and the Meals on Wheels’ Board of Directors champion this cause and keep their finger on the pulse on a daily basis. DeAun has been a part of this effort for nearly 15 years and it truly warms her heart to work with such wonderful people.

“We have more than 70 volunteers, most of whom have a specific delivery route one day per week. They deliver to the same people each time, which helps them develop a relationship along the way,” says Russell.  “The meals are prepared by the kitchen staff of Lee’s Summit Medical Center and can be accommodated to meet special dietary requirements, including diabetic, low sodium and ground entrees.”

Thanks to the unwavering generosity of Lee’s Summit Medical Center, a part of HCA Midwest Health, Kansas City’s largest healthcare provider, the meals are provided at an affordable price. The clients pay for these meals themselves, usually on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and some low-income clients can have these meals subsidized. The clients can request delivery daily or for a specific day or days of the week.  Meals have been prepared for 30 years at the hospital’s location.

“For that small price, a client can enjoy a delicious meal five days a week, which includes an entrée, vegetable, roll, fruit and dessert,” explains Russell. “The meals are delivered in returnable insulated trays to keep the food hot.

Because Meals on Wheels of Lee’s Summit does not receive any government funding, it must look to other means by which to help support its endeavors.

“We rely on churches, civic organizations and philanthropic groups and individuals in the community for donations to support our efforts,” says Russell. “And we recently received a grant from the Truman Heartland Foundation.”

Meals are delivered year-round, Monday through Friday, including Christmas and Thanksgiving. However, on those major holidays, food preparation and delivery service is provided by the Lee’s Summit United Methodist Church and the First Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit. Meals on Wheels also follows the R-VII school district’s cancellation policy in the event of inclement weather, which would prohibit delivery of the meals.

Many of the group’s volunteers are retirees and will usually arrive at the hospital around 10:45 a.m. to pick up the meals. Volunteer deliverers usually have about 8-9 meals per route. The hospital kitchen staff generously donates its time to assist with the preparation and assembly and all meals that are prepared for delivery.

Since the organization’s inception in 1974, more than 450,000 meals have been delivered, as of the end of September 2015.

“Meals on Wheels allows the elderly and handicapped citizens of Lee’s Summit to stay in their homes and live a more independent lifestyle,” says Russell.

For more information on Meals on Wheels of Lee’s Summit, visit or call 816.524.4966.