Hillary’s Helpers, back row (L-R): Martin Murphy, Jan Leathers, Susan Friederichsen, Pastor Wes Holland, Geraldine Campbell and Maribel Fox. Front row (L-R): Hilary Eklund, Jack Holloway, Hillary Allen, Richard Miller and JoEllen Miller.

By Gwen Rollings

There is a small army of volunteers who meet every Monday. Reveille is early in the kitchen at Westminster Church of Brandon. The objective must be accomplished before 14:00 hours (2 p.m. civilian time) that day.

Its mission never changes: to prepare and deliver nourishing mid-days meals on Mondays to those in the Brandon community to enrich the independent lives of homebound residents. The ‘code name’ of this operation is Greater Brandon Meals on Wheels, Inc.

There are many individuals on this team ensuring its success, like Jack Holloway, route coordinator, who maintains the weekly deliveries. However, many suggest Hillary Allen, chief chef, should be given the honorary title of sergeant major for achieving ‘mission accomplished’ each week.

Volunteer Hilary Eklund came up with an idea to give Allen special recognition for donating so much of her time and heart. Recently, Allen was surprised as each kitchen volunteer was presented with a unique uniform…an apron with ‘Hillary’s Helpers’ embroidered on it by volunteer JoEllen Miller.

Although Westminster Church on Lumsden Rd. is bustling with activity each Monday as dedicated volunteers prepare approximately 100 meals, it is a complex and well-executed operation.

Allen is in charge of planning each week’s menu and purchases the food usually on Sundays. Pastor Wes Holland picks up donated bread from Panera Bread also on Sundays. Normally, 10 ‘kitchen crew’ volunteers arrive early at the church to prepare the food, then another 10 drivers transport the meals to those in need.

According to Eklund, “Fifty-nine percent of home-delivered meal recipients live alone, and for many of them, the person delivering the meal is often the only person they will see that day.”

Eklund also said that the program is truly a mission of many hearts and many hands. Westminster Presbyterian donates by providing the kitchen, paper goods, electricity, utensils and pastor-power.

Although not associated with a national organization, Greater Brandon Meals on Wheels started in 1976 with three churches and has grown to 18 churches dedicated to providing hot meals five days a week for homebound people unable to prepare their own home-cooked meals.

Not even COVID-19 deterred Hillary’s Helpers from their Monday mission. Through established guidelines, clients are screened in their homes to verify need.

To apply or for information on donation opportunities, visit www.brandonmealsonwheels.com.