Why are Cincinnati Area Senior Services and Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY merging?
Our nation’s senior population is growing exponentially, outpacing the resources available to serve seniors and putting their health and well-being in jeopardy. The states served by our organizations are among those in which seniors fare the worst. As a result, our two organizations are facing increasing demands for our services. This merger will better position us to meet those demands. This is an opportunity to innovate -- to bring about transformational change. The larger size of the organization and a $4 million grant last year from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott will support innovation. This merger makes a bold statement -- and a promise: Working with our communities, our combined organization will tackle the challenges facing us so that every senior enjoys the support and dignity that they deserve.
What will the name be of the combined organization?
We have chosen to use the name “Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY” because of the strong, positive recognition of the Meals on Wheels brand.
What will the mission be of the combined organization?
Our combined mission will be the same as our separate missions -- to help seniors live independently by delivering nutritious food, checking on their well-being, minimizing their social isolation and more.
When will the merger go into effect?
The merger is effective immediately.
What will the size be of the organization?
We’re forming one of the largest local community-based organizations that provides direct services to seniors. The merged organization will serve more than 10,000 seniors annually with about 150 employees and 800 volunteers. We expect to deliver over 1.4 million meals per year to seniors’ homes.
What else do you do other than providing meals?
We take older adults on trips for shopping, community events and medical appointments, offer assistance at senior housing complexes and prevent seniors from being abused, neglected and exploited. We also supply food to about 15 community meal sites as well as pet food and veterinary vouchers to our clients’dogs and cats. Additionally, we operate the Over-the-Rhine Senior Center. (Some of our services have been suspended during the pandemic.)
Will there be changes in programs and services?
We expect to retain all of our existing programs and services. But new programs and services might be created to improve our support for seniors. Our tagline is “More Than a Meal” and innovation will be at the heart of our programs and services to improve the quality of life for seniors.
Will there be staffing changes?
No one will lose their job due to the merger. In fact, we expect more job opportunities.
Who will the combined organization serve?
The organization will serve more than 10,000 seniors annually. Many are marginalized people as well as people with disabilities or people living with chronic health conditions. Most are low-income or living below the poverty line. In Ohio, we will serve seniors in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Montgomery counties. In Kentucky, we will serve seniors in Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Gallatin, Grant, Pendleton, Carroll and Owen counties. We hope to expand our services and partnerships in Northern Kentucky.
Will the organization be more efficient?
This is a significant opportunity to eliminate duplication of services.
Does the pandemic have anything to do with the timing?
The pandemic has increased the demand for our services. Both organizations doubled services during the pandemic and are seeing unprecedented needs in our communities. Seniors need us now. They are more isolated and more prone to hunger and food insecurity than before.
Are any financial problems prompting this merger?
No. This is a partnership of two equally strong organizations.
Who will lead the new organization?
Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, will be the CEO of the new organization. Tracey Collins, CEO of Cincinnati Area Senior Services, will be the Chief Integration Officer. Daniel Driehaus, the CASS board chair, will be the board chair. Michael Murphy, chair of the Meals on Wheels board, will be the vice chair.
How did the two organizations explore whether to merge?
Jennifer Steele, with the consent of her board chair, Michael Murphy, reached out last spring for discussions with consultant Marta Brockmeyer, an expert in nonprofit partnership facilitation. Then, Steele and Tracey Collins connected to explore potential partnership opportunities together. After discussion with their boards, both CEOs and board chairs retained Brockmeyer to begin merger negotiations in September 2020. A joint merger Steering Committee met five times. In late January, the Steering Committee unanimously recommended the merger. Both boards approved the merger within the last week.
Do both organizations have Meals on Wheels programs?
Yes, CASS operates the largest such program in Hamilton County. Meals on Wheels Southwest OH and Northern KY runs the largest Meals on Wheels program in the 12 counties it serves.
Are there other Meals on Wheels programs in the region?
Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY is the only nonprofit organization that has “Meals on Wheels” in its name because Meals on Wheels of America granted it a license to use that name, effective in March 2020. It is the only Meals on Wheels program in the region given that approval. (Until March 2020, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY had been known as Wesley Community Services and that is the new organization’s legal name.) There are about 15 organizations that operate smaller Meals on Wheels programs in the area.
Have CASS and Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY worked together before?
Yes, our organizations are familiar with each other. Most recently, CASS, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY and the Mayerson JCC have been working together to deliver meals to younger people and families who are COVID-positive. CASS and Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY have also worked together during emergencies to provide back-up services when there might otherwise have been lapses in delivering meals.
How are Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY and CASS funded?
We rely on support from generous individuals, corporate sponsorships, and private foundations. 100% of charitable giving stays in the region. In addition to donations, there are various other funding sources, including the Hamilton County (Ohio) Elderly Services Tax Levy, federal funding under the Older Americans Act, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the City of Cincinnati and other local governments, Ohio Department of Aging, Medicaid, county payroll taxes in Northern Kentucky, the Area Agency on Aging in Dayton and the Northern Kentucky Area Development District. There is also a private payment option for clients and families.
What are the histories of these two organizations?
Together, the organizations have more than 135 years of service to seniors. Founded in 1967, CASS initially offered home-delivered meals and meals served in congregate settings in the community. CASS later broadened its services to include transportation as well as services to help older adults deal with complex personal responsibilities, including financial management. Founded in 1937, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY initially was known as Wesley House, then Wesley Community Services. Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY first offered places to live for low-income seniors. Later, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY phased out its residential facilities and added home-delivered meals and other services to help seniors live independently.
What is Meals on Wheels America?
Meals on Wheels America is the leadership organization that supports more than 5,000 community-based programs across the nation that address senior isolation and hunger. This network serves nearly every community in America and, along with more than 2 million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. Meals on Wheels America provides funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support.
What relationship do the two local nonprofits have with Meals on Wheels America?
We benefit from being a part of a powerful national network that fights senior hunger and advocates for older adults, yet all donations and gifts stay local to support local seniors. We also share best practices through the national organization and often adapt the educational and marketing materials of Meals on Wheels America for our own use, making us more efficient while lowering expenses.
Where will the offices and other facilities of the new organization be located?
For now, the new organization will retain the facilities both organizations have been using. Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Norther KY has offices and a production-distribution center at 2091 Radcliff Dr., Cincinnati. CASS has facilities three miles away at 644 Linn St., Cincinnati.
How do I donate?
It’s as simple as clicking on the “Donate” button at the top right. Or you can mail a check payable to Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY to: Donations, 2091 Radcliff Drive, Cincinnati, OH, 45204. You can also call 513-244-5484 to make a gift over the phone. A 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit status is maintained and all giving is tax deductible.
How can I volunteer?
Our volunteers help with meal preparation and packaging, keeping our vehicles clean and performing other important tasks. We have lots of options available by clicking on the “Volunteer” button at www.muchmorethanameal.org.
Can I follow the new organization on social media?
Yes, go to: https://www.facebook.com/MuchMoreThanAMeal/
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