50 YEARS OF SERVING OUR NEIGHBORS
This year we are excited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of West Shore Meals On Wheels!
Since our founding in 1973, we have been preparing and delivering freshly made, nutritious meals to thousands in our community who have called on us for assistance. We’ve been the friendly knock at the door that delivers a daily dose of caring with each meal delivery.
It all started in April 1973, when several Westside churches came together to develop a meal delivery system modeled after the Lakewood Meals on Wheels program. The mission of this new organization was to prepare and deliver a hot meal and a cold meal, five days a week, to individuals who had difficulty shopping for or preparing their own food.
Officially incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit on December 6, 1973, the newly formed organization chose the name “West Shore” as a fitting description of its initial service area – the five Westside suburbs of Fairview Park, Rocky River, Bay Village, Westlake and North Olmsted. The founding members were a group of women from several communities:
- Margaret Long resided in Fairview Park and became WSMOW’s first president.
- Betty Panek, a Westlake resident, became WSMOW’s first Secretary. (See
Betty’s handwritten minutes from the first Board meeting, held on November 20, 1973, by clicking here.)
- Gladys M. Griffith of Rocky River served as the first Treasurer.
- Dorothy Douglas, who lived in Fairview Park, became the program’s head cook. Dorothy was also an active member of Our Savior’s Rocky River Lutheran Church and later became the church’s first female Council President.
- Dorothy Sproul of Westlake was one of WSMOW’s principal organizers and its first Chairperson.
- Barbara Brooks, a Rocky River resident, took on the dual role of being the Service Coordinator and Chairman of Interviewers of Recipients.
WSMOW’s founders realized that providing “[t]he food may not be the big thing; sometimes just having someone come to the door each day is the enjoyable part. The meal is secondary. In offsetting the loneliness of not seeing anybody, the visit is as important as the food.”
To fulfill its mission, in November 1973 volunteers began assembling the organization’s Fairview Park Kitchen, located in Fairview Baptist Church, with the goal of beginning service on January 7, 1974. All food preparation was initially done at Fairview Baptist Church on Lorain Avenue. Although the program was originally designed to aid seniors, early on it expanded to also assist younger people who had been released from hospitals or who had injuries that prevented them from preparing their own meals.
The program was so successful at the Fairview Park location that 18 months later, on February 3, 1975, a second kitchen was opened. The Westlake Kitchen was located at Dover Congregational Church, North Olmsted, to serve residents of Bay Village, North Olmsted and Westlake.
Another kitchen was added in 1977 at John Knox Presbyterian Church, North Olmsted, to bake desserts and make salads. This kitchen operated until March 1980, when the decision was made to have each kitchen prepare their own desserts and salads.
As word of West Shore’s meal service spread, the need for expanded operating space grew more pressing. A fourth kitchen was opened in September 1979 at Our Savior’s Rocky River Lutheran Church (now Good Soil Lutheran Ministries).
During two weeks in 2004, volunteers from West Shore Meals On Meals and Our Savior’s Church demolished and rebuilt the Rocky River Kitchen, splitting the costs and responsibilities. Rockport Retirement Community donated hot meals to our recipients while the kitchen was being renovated.
In January 2012, Fairview Baptist Church approved a remodeling project that included its kitchen area, spurring WSMOW to seek an alternate location. Though it was initially thought to be a temporary arrangement, the Fairview Park Kitchen found a new permanent home at Fairview Park City Hall.
By April 2017, Lakewood Meals on Wheels found that it could no longer meet the needs of its community and decided to merge with West Shore Meals On Wheels. The Rocky River Kitchen became the Rocky River-Lakewood Kitchen, preparing and delivering meals for both communities. Also in 2017, the Westlake Kitchen branched off to become a separate organization, which currently serves Bay Village, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls, Olmsted Township and Westlake from its kitchen at Dover Congregational Church.
Today, West Shore Meals On Wheels is able to serve residents of Fairview Park, Lakewood and Rocky River, regardless of their age or income level, thanks to the unflagging support of individuals and organizations in each of those communities.
Our 50 years of service would not have been possible without the many dedicated volunteers who have contributed their valuable time and efforts through the years. We currently have 115 active volunteers serving on a regular schedule or in a substitute capacity.
Equally important has been the generous financial support we receive from our local benefactors. As we do not receive government funding, the donations made every year by our supporters ensure that we are able to meet our operating costs while keeping our meal prices very affordable for our recipients.
We offer heartfelt recognition and thanks to all our volunteers, donors and staff members – past and present – as we celebrate West Shore Meals On Wheels’ 50 years of vital community service!
Lynda Kovach, Director 2023
1. Plain Dealer January 6, 1974
2. City of Rocky River Proclamation October 24, 2001
3. Ohio Business Public Incorporation Records Entity 447050
4. Original First Meeting Minutes November 20, 1973
5. cleveland.com obituaries – dorothy -douglas- October 17, 2014
6. West Life December 5, 1973
7. Cleveland Press December 22, 1973
8. Plain Dealer January 14, 1975
9. West Life April 19, 1989
10. West Life September 29, 2004 and WSMOW Historical Photographs
11. WSMOW Board Minutes January 24, 2011 and January 16, 2012
12. WSMOW Board Minutes February 20, March 20 and May 15, 2017
13. WSMOW Board Minutes January 16, 2017