Durham Meals on Wheels requiring staff, volunteers be vaccinated

Durham location appears to be the only location requiring COVID vaccination

Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island driver Jim Stotler loads his basket from his delivery truck before bringing meals to his elderly and disabled clients at an apartment complex, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Central Falls, R.I. Meals on Wheels America said its branches across the country are currently serving 37% more clients compared to pre-COVID levels. Over the summer that number was as high as 79%. In a recent survey, the organization found that 86% of programs don't feel they're meeting the needs of their communities as it is, and 74% worry that as the pandemic eases they'll lose the emergency funding but still keep many of the clients they added during the pandemic. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

RALEIGH — Seniors in Durham may not be seeing the usual volunteer faces after Meals on Wheels of Durham announced volunteers and staff are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“As part of a continued commitment to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace Meals on Wheels Durham now requires all employees and volunteers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including booster vaccines as determined by eligibility, effective August 15, 2022,” according to a post on the Durham Meals on Wheels (MOW) website. 

“All persons interested in volunteering or continuing to volunteer with MOWD must provide proof of vaccination,” the Durham MOW notice says. “Official documentation of vaccination status must be shown to and verified by a MOWD staff member in-person. We will not keep any documentation on record.” 

Durham MOW’s notice also says, “Remote volunteers are subject to this policy only in the event that they visit the office or come into physical contact with clients and other volunteers.” 

MOW of Durham referred North State Journal back to its website post in response to our inquiry as to why their branch was instituting a vaccination policy at this late date. 

North State Journal reached out to the state coordinator for MOW Kimberly Strong, who is also the Executive Director of Cabarrus Meals on Wheels. Strong said she polled their membership and “no other program responded that they are requiring vaccinations other than Durham.” 

Strong said in an email that “each program is an individual entity.” 

“We are not operated like the Red Cross or Boys & Girls Clubs,” Strong explained. “Every home delivered meal program in the world is a unique, independent organization. Organizations choose whether they want to pay a membership fee and be a member of Meals on Wheels America, but they are not an overarching principal organization. It would be just like paying a membership fee to any organization.” 

She added that “My organization is an independent non-profit organization. We don’t have any higher organization setting policy and procedures for us.” 

At the national level, a representative for the MOW America program also told North State Journal the MOW network is “comprised of thousands of independent, local programs across the country, each operating as its own independent organization” and that “each program develops and adheres to the policies and requirements designed to be most effective in their own communities.” 

MOW receives federal funding through Title III of the Older Americans Act (OAA). According to data published by MOW America, “Nationally, the OAA funds 39% of the total cost to provide nutritious meals, safety checks and friendly visits to 2.4 million seniors each year.” 

The remaining 61% of funding comes from various sources such as state and/or local government, private donations from corporations, foundations and individuals, as well as federal block grants. 

In 2020, tax filings show MOW America’s total revenue was $71,254,608 with total functional expenses of $47,218,556. Executive compensation that year topped $1,762,558 or 3.7% of all expenses.  

The previous year, in 2019, total revenue for MOW America was $12,019,305 with expenses of $11,996,746 and executive compensation listed at $1,296,922 or 10.8% of all expenses. 

The jump in Mow America’s total revenue represents a 493% increase from 2019 to 2020. 

Durham’s MOW program shows total revenue $1,747,711 with gross receipts of $1,799,331 in its 2020 filing. That filing included government grants of $505,896 and executive compensation of $108,085; 7.1% of all expenses. 

The year prior, Durham MOW’s total revenue was reported at $1,425,781 with gross receipts $1,462,396. Government grants totaled $537,382 and executive compensation was reported at $96,531; 7.0% of all expenses.

About A.P. Dillon 797 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_