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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Jul 5, 2012 - 10:30:23 AM

Meals on Wheels puts mission into motion for Blackbaud
By Elizabeth Bush
Jun 21, 2012 - 10:30:33 AM

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Neal Kraemer, a strategic account manager at Blackbaud on Daniel Island, delivered a specially prepared meal to Mount Pleasant resident Mable Newman last week. Different Blackbaud employees take a few hours away from work each Friday to drive two of the 17 routes operated by East Cooper Meals on Wheels.
It’s just after 11 o’clock on a Friday morning, a time when many employees in the area would have already logged a few hours in the office. On most weekdays like this, Mount Pleasant resident Neal Kraemer can be found fulfilling the duties of his job as a strategic account manager for Blackbaud on Daniel Island, where he works as an important liaison between his company and the non-profit organizations it serves. On this day, however, he is driving around a Mount Pleasant neighborhood off Rifle Range Road with a list of area residents in need and a supply of balanced, nutritional meals.

“Here’s today’s meal,” he says, as he lifts out a container from a bright blue cooler in the back of his car and prepares to carry it into the home of senior Mable Newman, a diabetic who also has peripheral artery disease.
Kraemer is one of about 20 volunteers at Blackbaud who venture out from behind their desks on Fridays to put the company’s mission into motion for East Cooper Meals on Wheels (ECMOW). Through their efforts, and those of some 300 other volunteers, more than 136,000 meals are delivered each year to the homebound or those unable to provide their own meals. According to ECMOW statistics, the program has served 379 recipients so far in 2012, a 22 percent increase over this time last year. Most of their recipients are over 60 years of age, with 92 percent living at or below the poverty line.
“We are absolutely unique,” said Daniel Island resident George Roberts, president and CEO of ECMOW.  “No one else is serving this need. There are lots of food banks out there, and churches with food pantries. They all do great jobs, but the people we’re serving, they can’t physically get to a food bank. They can’t prepare food. We’re the only ones that deliver to the homes a fully prepared, cooked hot meal.”

Kraemer, who also volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House and routinely donates platelets to the American Red Cross, fills a critically needed role for ECMOW on the third Friday of each month.
“The volunteers are key for us,” added Roberts. “We only have a staff of eight, so there’s no way we can prepare and deliver 300 meals a day. The volunteers are really the way that happens.”

Volunteers can commit to once a week or once a month, whatever their schedules allow. Shifts can be anywhere from about one hour to two hours. Individuals, couples or families are welcome.
“It’s a great way to plug-in, even if it’s just for a temporary period of time,” said Sarah Vega, public relations and communications manager for ECMOW.
At Blackbaud, volunteering is encouraged, said Kraemer, and is even rewarded with paid vacation time.
“It’s actually a great experience to see,” he added. “…I live in one of the developments on my (MOW) route and I serve some of my neighbors. It really is the person next door that can use the help…It turns to mission, and it’s very much in line with what Blackbaud does.”

“Blackbaud is focused both on how we give back as a company and how we support individual service,” added Sally Ehrenfried, community relations and philanthropy director at Blackbaud. “We encourage our employees through many programs, such as Volunteer for Vacation and the Nonprofit Leadership Circle (board and committee training), but choosing where to serve is up to each person.  It’s so wonderful that 20 Blackbaud employees have made the personal choice to help such a worthy organization as East Cooper Meals on Wheels. We are so proud of the commitment they are making to the community.”

For Newman, one of the recipients on Kraemer’s route, that mission is not only needed but appreciated.  She was added to the ECMOW recipient list at the recommendation of her physician. In addition to daily meals, she also receives groceries from ECMOW on occasion, and her son, a quadriplegic, receives a monthly supply of a liquid nutritional supplement.

“They have a dietician who fixes the right proportions for me,” said Newman. “…I am just so thankful because I am getting the proper nutrition and the balanced meal I need for my diabetes… And the people who bring the food are just as important as the dietician. They are so polite. They do a fantastic job! I have really made some good friends, and I can trust them.”
Daniel Island residents Barbara and Walt Jenner are also fans of the ECMOW program. Barbara’s 91 year-old mother, who is on a fixed income and lives in the Seven Farms Village apartment complex for seniors, has been a recipient since 2010.

“She is getting two balanced meals a day,” said Barbara. “…It has been our saving grace. If she wasn’t there, she couldn’t stay on her own. She can’t prepare her own food. It would require a great deal of additional time on (our) part. It’s just wonderful. I am so very impressed. They do such an amazing job, and it’s such a worthwhile service.”

In addition to delivering meals, ECMOW volunteers are also able to check on the well-being of the recipients and their surroundings.

“It’s more than just the meals,” added Vega. “It kind of cues us in. If Mr. Jones is home every day and he’s not answering the door today, it gives us an opportunity to do that wellness check… Advocacy is a huge part of what we do….If someone is in a house that does not have air conditioning, then we’ll try to get them a window unit or a fan, at least for the summer.”

For Kraemer, who greeted Newman with a hug when he delivered her meal last Friday, being a Meals on Wheels volunteer is also about giving the senior citizens among us the attention they often don’t crave, but certainly well deserve.

“It’s really just helping in the community,” he said.
East Cooper Meals on Wheels is actively recruiting new volunteer drivers to help deliver meals in Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, Daniel Island, Cainhoy and Wando. For more information about becoming a Meals on Wheels volunteer, contact Adrian Wieland at (843) 881-9350 or visit the website
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