Volunteering for the Columbia Meals on Wheels’ Big Wheels fundraiser meant losing several hours of sleep for Meredith Hamilton, a senior in the MU Hotel and Restaurant Program.
“I got up early just for this,” she said.
Hamilton is one of several student volunteers for the annual fundraiser, which takes place during the week before Valentine’s Day. People around the community can order box lunches, with half of the proceeds going directly to Meals on Wheels. Last year, the fundraiser delivered 3,000 boxed lunches and brought in $14,000.
In the past, Meals on Wheels partnered with a local Columbia restaurant. Because of logistics, this year they partnered with MU’s Hotel and Restaurant Management Program. Julie Hosmer, an assistant professor in the program and a member of the board of directors for Meals on Wheels, saw it as a great opportunity.
“We saw an opportunity to partner with a learning organization and get students involved in community service,” Hosmer said. “The HRM program really fits with Meals on Wheels’ mission.”
Meals on Wheels is a program that deliver meals to individuals at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals. Many of the recipients are housebound and elderly.
Students from different courses volunteered their time to help out. The box lunches were prepared from 7:30 a.m. until 10 a.m., when volunteers picked them up and delivered them around the community.
“Meals on Wheels is a good opportunity to reach out,” Hamilton said. “I was able to do it with my mother when I was younger, and it’s great to be able to do it now and have it tie into what I’m doing in school.”
“Best sandwich that he had ever eaten”
To start this partnership, Hosmer spoke with Chef Leslie Jett, executive chef and resident instructor. Jett then prepared a taste test for the board of directors.
“His taste test completely won over the board,” Hosmer said. “During the tasting, one of the board members said it was the best sandwich that he had ever eaten.”
The box lunch options included a turkey bacon club or a vegetable wrap and marinated vegetables, chips and a cookie. The turkey bacon club was on the menu when the school’s Culinary Café first opened. Jett said the sandwich “made the long haul.” Only one other sandwich that has lasted as long.
Jett also felt it was a good opportunity for the students and for the program.
“We are usually student organization centered, not community centered,” Jett said. “When we think of community, it’s usually the MU community, so this was a perfect opportunity for both our program and Meals on Wheels. We can use our assets to provide good in the community. Everyone will benefit.”
Hamilton is in the Professional Development class, which focuses on leadership and career development, with some emphasis in service.
“Philanthropy is such a good thing to be able to put on a resume,” Hamilton said. “And you also get to know other people in your major and meet the other people volunteering.”
Scott Wynn, sophomore, believes the HRM program is great, especially when helping out Meals on Wheels.
“I’d probably be sleeping in until my 11 a.m. class if I weren’t here,” Wynn said. “But Meals on Wheels is a good cause, and I really wanted to help out.”
Not only do students get a chance to help out in the community, but they also get practice. Part of the HRM program gives students the opportunity to work in a real restaurant setting through the school’s Culinary Café.
“Making 3,000 box lunches will give them lots of practice before we roll out our food to public,” Jett said.