Meals on Wheels Port Colborne began in November 1969 with 13 meals at $0.65 each, being prepared at Northland Manor, Home for the Aged, Port Colborne. Meals were delivered on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Mr. Doug Rapelje, the former Administrator at Sunset Haven, had approached two women from Port Colborne, Betty Smyth and Irene Pakrul, to see if they would be interested in coordinating a Meals on Wheels program here. They worked cooperatively with Doug Rapelje, Dorothy Male (Administrator of Northland Manor), and Lorraine Soucie (Food Service Manager at Northland Manor) to initiate the service in Port Colborne. Doctors and clergy were called to get names of prospective clients and an advisory board was set up within the next year.
In April 1982, an emergency meeting was held to decide the fate of Meals on Wheels in Port Colborne. The need for the service was escalating. More volunteers were needed as well as public financial support to help defray costs and keep the price of the meal as reasonable as possible. The public responded to the need and a new association called Port Colborne Meals on Wheels was established as a registered charity.
In 1984, members of our organization helped to form a Regional Association for Meals on Wheels to link organizers of the agencies in Niagara. (Each unit, while having common goals, is run independently by local volunteers.)
In 1986, Port Colborne Meals on Wheels applied for funding from the United Way, to purchase new "Aladdin" delivery trays as well as related equipment for the kitchen. And in January 1987, with approved funding from the South Niagara United Way, Helen Clarke was hired as a part-time coordinator. A temporary 'office' was set up beside the kitchen at Northland Manor. As our rural routes increased we added additional volunteers from churches in Wainfleet. Also, we began a partnership with the Port Colborne Association for Community Living by having some of their clients deliver meals, along with a supervisor.
In January 1988, with the help of on-going United Way funding and subsidies from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, we expanded our service to five days, Monday through Friday. During this year, we delivered nearly 10,500 meals! In November 1988, our organization became incorporated. Our official name became Meals on Wheels Port Colborne Incorporated.
During 1992, the Board of Directors addressed the need for our organization to have more office space as well as a waiting area for our volunteers. While we regretted having to leave Northland Manor, a move was considered inevitable and negotiations began and on February 1, 1993, our operation was moved to the Port Colborne General Hospital who then became our meal supplier.
In August of 1993 Leslie Kennedy was hired part-time as bookkeeper for the Agency and in April 1994, we began the "Wheels to Meals" program as a pilot project. This program allows for some social interaction and enjoyment as well as having a healthy meal. Recipients are invited out for lunch and a short program is offered which might be entertaining, educational, or on a topic of interest.
In January of 1999 Leslie Kennedy was hired as our part-time program manager, in addition to her bookkeeper duties, to initiate a new frozen meal program and act as an assistant to the Program Co-ordinator. The Program Co-ordinator’s job description was re-evaluated and updated at this time and as a result, Helen Clarke was given the title of “Executive Director”. Originally frozen meals were provided by the Port Colborne General Hospital, however in November of 2002, our frozen meal supplier was changed to Niagara Ina Grafton Gage Village, in St. Catharines.
Helen Clarke announced her retirement effective March 31, 2001. The position was advertised and interviewing took place over the course of several weeks. The position was offered to and accepted by Leslie Kennedy, who took over as Executive Director on April 1, 2001.
On January 1, 2018 our meal supplier was changed to Gourmet at Home, a local company preparing homemade meals. Our client base which had shrunk considerably in the last several years immediately began to increase, directly relating to the improved quality of the meal we are now offering.
As the Covid-19 Pandemic began to escalate it was decided to move our offices out of the Hospital setting. We took up temporary residence in St. James & St. Brendan's "Guild Hall" in March of 2020 and then made a permanent move to our present location at 953 Elm Street, Port Colborne in December 2020. We continue to serve the communities of Port Colborne and Wainfleet and have done so throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic with the assistance of some very dedicated volunteers.