Andrea Miller has always been involved in doing for others, particularly animals. One beautiful Rochester morning before the crowds began to stream in to Rochester’s Clothes-Line Art Festival, she finished setting her booth up and began visiting other booths, as “they all do at some point during the day”.It was then that she found “Meals On Wheels Pet Food Program.” Familiar with “Meals On Wheels”, this was a new twist! Intrigued, Andrea jumped to volunteer.

Ernie, Andrea’s 13 year old dog joins her on the deliveries. Once a month they go to a pet food pick-up spot and then deliver the food on their assigned route. “Meals On Wheels” employees distribute the pet food Saturdays on a volunteer basis, off the clock. Andrea remarked that never was there a time that the employees were not there and or late. This is remarkable and shows the dedication of the “Meals On Wheels” staff to their clients, by coming in on their days off to volunteer for their clients pets.

Rochester, NY. has the distinction of founding the third in the country “Meals On Wheels Pet Food Program”. This ancillary organization distributes food to recipients of “Meals On Wheels” pet owners. “Meals On Wheels” a nationwide network of non-profit programs helps recipients live independently, by providing a nourishing meal and additional services like volunteers checking in with the clients. If a volunteer finds concerning issues since their last visit, they’re trained to assist. Imagine the peace of mind for distant-living relatives this program provides.

“Meals On Wheels” operates in cities well as rural areas. Recipients are usually over 60 years old and have some sort of physical limitations or reasons they are not able to shop or cook for themselves. More than half a million clients are veterans. 64% are women, while 40% live in poverty. They all rely on the thousands of volunteers donating their time to bring them meals. “Meals On Wheels Pet Food Program” got its start 15 years ago in San Diego, after “Meals On Wheels” volunteers noticed often clients would divide their food with their pet because they had no pet food in the house. After partnering with the Helen Woodward Animal Center to make the pet food drop offs, a sister program of “Meals On Wheels” developed and grew nationally.

Clients become involved when their volunteer notices they have a pet and pass this information to the “Meals On Wheels” office. They are approached and asked if they would like assistance through provisions of dog or cat food. If the client agrees, meals for their pet(s) arrive Saturdays, separately from their own meals. This provides an additional opportunity for connection with others when the recipient receives the pet food. “Meals On Wheels” for Pets provides for dogs and cats, but not other animals like snakes or birds.

Pets play an important function in the lives of the clients, giving them reasons to stay active and feel needed. Their lives would be much emptier without their fuzzy companions. One person who can attest to this is Lucky D. who lives in downtown Rochester. He himself worked for the Visiting Nurse Service in his younger years. Now receiving “Meals On Wheels” he waxes enthusiastically about the program and his visits with Andrea and Ernie, especially since they knew each other before she began delivering to him and his dog Jock, a senior dog. Ernie and Jock are longtime buddies, years ago having become friends while living in the Neighborhood of the Arts area. Through the dogs friendship, Andrea and Lucky developed their own rapport and look forward to catching up with each other on delivery days.

While Andrea is usually only able to visit briefly with each client, this visit she took food up to Lucky’s apartment because a health issue prevented him from coming downstairs. Her arrival with Ernie was cause for much joyous barking, especially by Jock who could hardly contain his excitement over visitors. After a brief sniff and greet for Ernie, Jock began to busy himself with his visitors, demanding a good and thorough petting by gluing his body to whoever was willing to stroke his luxurious fur.

As Lucky doled out treats to the dogs he discussed how much Meals On Wheels Pet Food Program comforts him by helping take the worry out of keeping his dog. He detailed how important Jock is to him, providing company and entertainment. The strong bond between them is clearly evident. It’s these bonds between pets and their owners that volunteers enable through their service. Many clients probably never imagined they would be recipients of this service. Bringing this home, Andrea commented that she too might need help someday. She would never want to have to contemplate parting with a beloved pet when something as simply vital as “Meals On Wheels Pet Food Program” could mean the difference of her keeping or not keeping her pet. After leaving Lucky D’s apartment, Andrea and Ernie are on their way to their next stop. Her parting comment about “Meals On Wheels Pet Food Program” was: “It is a blessing to be part of, working with all those that make it happen.”

The “Meals On Wheels Pet Food Program” is a volunteer based organization run through the “Meals On Wheels”, a UR Medicine Home Care program. Funding comes from various sources. Recognizing this, the Genesee Valley Kennel Club has chosen this organization to partner with. Instead of charging admission to their annual three day dog show being held at the Dome Expo in Henrietta, June 23rd-25th,GVKC asks that the public come to see the dogs and donate either dog or cat food for “Meals On Wheels Pet Food Program”. “Meals On Wheels Pet Food Program” volunteers will be there to talk about the program and collect the bags and cans of food they hope the public will donate. Come out to support this worthy cause and see some incredible dogs!