Englewood Meals on Wheels gets new leader

Englewood Meals on Wheels

SUN PHOTO BY TOM CHANG Englewood resident Theresa Poles, 89, receives a meal delivered by driver and Englewood Meals on Wheels volunteer Barbara Gschwend.

ENGLEWOOD — Hennelore Kober needs a machine to help her breathe, but when Barbara Gschwend arrived bringing food Thursday, her face lit up with joy.

Kober was one of 16 stops on Gschwend’s route as a volunteer driver for Englewood Meals on Wheels.

“I love it and the food is good,” Kober said. “There’s enough for me and my little (Chihuahua) Pixie.”

Gschwend has been driving a route for two years, one of about 50 drivers carrying food cooked fresh from scratch each week to people who can’t cook or can’t get out to shop for food.

“People are glad to see you,” Gschwend said. “It’s really one of the highlights of our week.”

Schuylar Bush picked up where his predecessor left off Jan. 1 as the new director of Englewood Meals on Wheels.

“I find that if nothing’s broken, then there’s no need to fix it,” Bush said.

Bush took over after health issues forced former director Martha Blenner to step down. She served more than five years.

He served as assistant director and was appointed to the new position by the board. He previously volunteered as a driver in North Port and Englewood.

“The most satisfying thing is when we deliver a meal on a regular basis,” Bush said. “They say, ‘I appreciate this so much. Without the meal, I can’t stay in my home. They’re so thankful. That’s the reward.”

Volunteers are always needed as board members, drivers and helpers, cooks and office staff, Bush said. The organization, which does not accept food donations, needs monetary donations.

Food is delivered Monday through Saturday, including holidays. Bush said 130 to 150 meals are served daily and 35,000-40,000 meals were served in 2012.    “We have on registry 250 volunteers,” he said. “We have about 80 drivers, 30 kitchen staff, nine office staff. We have backups in all positions.”

There are six to seven kitchen staffers daily who arrive at the facility from 6:30-7 a.m. to prep and cook the meals.

“I love working with the people,” said Bill Sink, a kitchen staffer since 2008. “It’s why I keep coming back.”

Cooks are not trained but follow an outline on what to prepare and how to prepare it.

“We follow instructions and we’re good to go,” he said. “At 9:45 a.m., everything has to be heated and at 10:30 a.m., we put them in coolers.”

Meals are $3 and accommodate diabetics. Drivers are usually assigned a helper to deliver the meals.

“I do it for people who need it and improve their lives,” said Joe Perry, head cook.

For more information on Englewood Meals on Wheels, call 941-474-4445.

Englewood Meals on Wheels volunteers

SUN PHOTO BY TOM CHANG Englewood Meals on Wheels volunteers Jeff Smith and Francia McDaniel prepare meals to be served for the nearly 150 daily clients.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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