The May 17, 2019, Transform Westside Summit featured guest speakers from Meals on Wheels Atlanta (MOWA). Jason Tucker, Senior Director of Meal Services, provided an overview of the various services MOWA provides to program recipients across Greater Atlanta, including Atlanta’s Historic Westside. Tucker participated on a panel alongside Andrea Jaron, MOWA Chief Development Officer; Shelby Duncan, longtime Westside resident and MOWA program participant; and Perry Washington Jr., a Westside Promise Zone volunteer.
Tucker opened the discussion by sharing more about MOWA’s mission and its work on the Westside. MOWA aims “to support senior independence through meals, shelter, education and community,” he said. According to Tucker, many senior citizens and veterans are homebound and may not have friends or family nearby to provide support so MOWA steps in to close that gap and provide critical services to protect their quality of life. The ultimate goal in providing these services, he said, is to help senior citizens remain in their homes as they age.
Most people associate the Meals on Wheels organization with meal delivery, and this is a large part of what it does. Last year, MOWA delivered over 350,000 meals to senior citizens in need. While this number sounds high, Tucker explained that there is still great need across Greater Atlanta, particularly as the aging population continues to grow. Other MOWA programs include home repair and volunteer services.
The Home Repair Services initiative launched in 2002 in response to meal delivery volunteers who noticed homes falling in disrepair. “Our seniors are losing the ability to remain in their homes, solely because they cannot afford to maintain them,” Tucker said. The program focuses on making repairs in areas used most, including the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and living room. MOWA repairs approximately 350 houses a year, focusing on four critical priorities:
- Health and life safety
- Mold, lead-based paint and asbestos remediation
- Energy efficiency
- Deferred maintenance
Jaron listed the partnerships which enable MOWA’s work in home repair: Fulton County government, The Home Depot Foundation and Invest Atlanta. These partnerships allowed MOWA to complete 3,175 repairs and serve over 300 clients in 2017, he said, and this initiative continues to grow.
Like MOWA’s meal delivery and home repair programs, its Volunteer Services program also supports senior independence by helping provide education and community. In 2018, MOWA volunteers donated over 23,000 hours of time helping program beneficiaries save a half-million dollars.
In support of senior citizens living in Atlanta’s Historic Westside, MOWA is developing a new partnership with the Westside Future Fund (WFF) Volunteer Corps to facilitate more meal deliveries and home repairs.
Washington shared about his experience as a volunteer with Westside Promise Zone (WPZ), a federally designated program authorized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As he said, “through this program, the city seeks to better align across initiatives led by community-based organizations.” Washington explained that much of his volunteer work has been a learning experience. “We had to get in the community and figure out the needs and the people we wanted to reach,” he said. “Our biggest priority was building trust.”
One resident Washington built a relationship with was Duncan, a Westside resident who had her home repaired by MOWA. Having been born and raised in Atlanta, staying in her beloved home of 22 years on the Westside was extremely important to Duncan. And thanks to the MOWA home repair program, staying became possible. According to Duncan, the application process was mostly painless, especially considering the outcome: MOWA replaced her broken furnace, provided a new roof and completed some plumbing repairs.
The panel presentation concluded, with a Q&A with Summit attendees. One attendee expressed concern about the 150 homeowners living in the English Avenue neighborhood who require similar services. “We are working with our partners to expand our work on the Westside,” Tucker explained. He offered to connect with her after the program to provide further information.
Another attendee asked how residents could better access MOWA services. Washington responded, saying MOWA sets up shop at the Westside Works office every Monday to provide better accessibility to residents and sharing the address: 261 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. NW.
The Q&A session concluded with Tucker encouraging the audience to get involved by volunteering or finding ways to partner with MOWA to deliver more meals and help with home repairs on the Westside.
Learn more about Meals on Wheels Atlanta by visiting https://mealsonwheelsatlanta.org/
Special Guest Appearance by Councilman Antonio Brown:
Summit attendees were honored to hear from Councilman Antonio Brown, who represents Atlanta City Council District 3. He encouraged residents to contact him directly as he intends to fight alongside them for community improvement.
Devotion by Rev. Rebekah Close LeMon:
Opening devotion was led by Rev. Rebekah Close LeMon, Executive Director of First Presbyterian Church. Rev. LeMon inspired attendees to consider the power of serving one another as neighbors. She said, “Building and rebuilding community is more about (building) neighbors than any physical thing we could ever build.”
Additional Summit Highlights:
- The Anti-Displacement Tax Fund program deadline has been extended to June 1, 2019. To date, 94 Westside homeowners have enrolled in the program. Apply here.
- The At-Promise Youth and Community Center will host a field day on May 18 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The event will bring together over 500 youth, 200 volunteers and 100 law enforcement officers for a fun day. Register here.
- The new YMCA off Martin Luther King Junior Dr. NW will open soon. The center will feature high-quality instructions and will prioritize children from Vine City.
- Summit attendees who are current Westside residents or who work for a nonprofit serving Westside neighborhoods have a chance to win a $50 gift card from The Home Depot at each Summit event. Congratulations to Linda Adams, the May 17 winner, pictured below.
Watch the entire Summit presentation below.
Transform Westside Summit – Friday, May 17, 2019
Transform Westside Summit – Friday, May 17, 2019 About the Transform Westside Summit: Westside Future Fund’s Transform Westside Summit is held on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month and is free and open to the public. Our audience includes a diverse group of stakeholders. Longtime neighborhood residents, community and faith leaders, heads of non-profits and corporate executives come together to share success stories and discuss challenges that currently affect our Westside neighborhoods. Meetings begin promptly at 7:15 a.m. with morning devotion,* presented by a member of the historic Westside community, and complimentary breakfast, provided by Summit sponsor Chick-fil-A. Many in our community are driven by their spiritual faith to participate in the Westside revitalization effort. The time at the beginning of our meetings is an opportunity to share various inspirational reflections. While the speakers may articulate their personal faith, it is meant to be inclusive, inspiring and meaningful. All are welcome.
Posted by Westside Future Fund on Friday, May 17, 2019