Name: Charlyn Ocker
Title: President & CEO
Organization: Meals For The Elderly
How did you become interested in this work?
While I was on leave from teaching after our son was born, a friend asked me if I would share a job with her at Meals for The Elderly. Her husband had retired and she wanted to travel with him. The plan was that she would work a month and I would work a month. I thought “what a great way to get back into the working world”. After a year she too retired and by that time I was completely hooked! That was 35 years ago. My husband is retired and I am often asked if I am going to retire and my answer is always “why, I love my job”!
What drives your passion?
I believe we are called to use our resources to reach those in need, and it makes me so proud that at the end of the day, we have truly helped to make our piece of the world a better place to grow old.
Does your organization offfer any other programs besides meal delivery?
A half-gallon of milk and a loaf of bread are delivered to our most food-insecure clients once every two weeks through our Daily Bread Program.
Our Pet Food Program provides supplementary pet food to seniors every two weeks for their four-legged best friends.
Thanks to our Comfort Items Program, we provide breakfast sacks and weekend sack lunches once a week. Frozen meals are offered to those who rely entirely on our meals for nutrition. We also provide microwaves, fans, heaters and blankets, Christmas and birthday gifts. All of these items are graciously donated to us by supporters.
In addition to daily meals, Meals for The Elderly also delivers Emergency Meals of nonperishable food. This shelf-stable food program evolved to ensure that our homebound meal recipients have a sufficient supply of non-perishable food items in case of a weather-related or other type of emergency.
What is the best advice you've ever recieved?
“Focus on the positive” and also to “Lead by example”
What is the biggest challenge in your work?
With a small staff and a tight budget, my biggest challenges are trying to meet the needs of our elderly clients while staying within budget, thereby avoiding the need to put clients on a waiting list. The time and resources required to incorporate grant writing, public speaking, office management, and fundraising into the day to day aspects of my position often presents additional challenges.
Was there a client, volunteer, or poignant moment in your work that has had a great impact on you?
I am constantly amazed at the dedication of the many people who work tirelessly to help others. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to work with many of these amazing mentors, volunteers, donors and talented individuals. Each day, my job makes me aware of the very special needs of the homebound and elderly residents of our community and how the citizens so generously and graciously give their time, resources, and talents to help our elderly clients remain in their own homes where they truly want to be.