How we came to be Community Meals, Inc.
Community Meals was incorporated in 1971 through the efforts of Rev. Melvin R. Campbell, then pastor of the West Side Presbyterian Church of Ridgewood and the church's Mission and Social Concerns Committee. Available through Ridgewood's Red Cross office it delivered two meals a day, five days a week, to people unable to prepare or obtain meals for themselves within an area comprising Ridgewood, Glen Rock, Ho-Ho-Kus, and Midland Park.
The first Board of Directors consisted of Mrs. Garvin P. Kiernan, chairman; Mrs. Edward A. Jesser, secretary; Mrs. Robert H. Staehle, treasurer; Mrs. Ray B. Nies, assistant treasurer; Mrs. Robert P. Sinclair, coordinator of volunteers. Other directors were the Rev. Dr. Melvin R. Campbell, the Rev. Marshall T. Rice, Mrs. William T. Zerby, Mrs. Wilbur J. Strauss, Mrs. Henry V. Lione, Mrs. Richard P. Keating, and Mrs. Henry W. Gould.
The first "Meals on Wheels" delivery was made to four clients on Monday, November 29, 1971. The meals were prepared by the Town and Country Restaurant, Midland Park, and delivered by volunteer drivers. Cost for meals was set at $2.75 a day, with a sliding scale for those unable to pay the full amount.
Financial support for the program was provided by individuals and area church, civic and service organizations and was listed as an agency in the Community Chest drive. Since its humble beginnings Community Meals has expanded considerably in size and scope. Waldwick and Allendale have been added to the area communities served. The number of clients has grown from the original four. In 2014, Community Meals delivered nearly 25,000 meals to 204 clients.
As the number of clients increased so did the impracticality of relying on a commercial business to prepare meals. In December 1974, the Valley Hospital began preparing all meals. They were prepared by hospital dieticians and cooked in the hospital kitchens. In 1979 Christ Church in Ridgewood offered office space, a meeting room, and use of their kitchen for packing hot meals. Today, meals prepared by Valley Hospital are delivered to the Christ Church kitchen, where volunteers package the hot meals; cold meals are delivered pre-packed by the hospital. Volunteer drivers, assigned specific routes, deliver these meals to the clients.
Volunteers are always in demand. People are needed to pack and deliver meals. Between 80 and 90 drivers are routinely needed, either as regulars or substitutes to assist as required. Anyone interested in volunteering their time may call the Community Meals office at 201-447-8295 weekdays between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. for information or submit a VOLUNTEER FORM and our Volunteer Coordinator will contact you.
Over time, as costs have escalated, the need for financial support has also increased. To Donations serve to maintain affordability of meals for our clients and provide free or reduced cost meals to those with demonstrated financial need. Persons wishing to make a contribution to support the program may do so by mailing our DONOR FORM and check, payable to COMMUNITY MEALS, INC.