The history of Meals on Wheels began with Lady Stella Reading founding the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) in 1938, a year before World War II started. The WVS was created specifically as a tactic to mitigate the aftermath of air attacks on Great Britain’s citizens.
Lady Stella Reading at her desk at 41 Tothill Street, Westminster, where she is now commemorated with a blue plaque. On the wall in the background is a large map of Great Britain with the WVS districts displayed. Photo courtesy of the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection.
In 1940, the “Blitz” (a German bombing campaign against the United Kingdom) caused thousands of people in the UK to lose their homes with no way of cooking meals. The Women’s Volunteer Service (WVS) of Great Britain started cooking meals and delivering them to people who needed them. British restaurants also helped by donating food to the WVS.
The first delivery was in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England in 1943. The Women’s Volunteer Service is now called the Royal Voluntary Service. Women would deliver meals and refreshments to people and soldiers via prams or baby strollers, carts, bicycles with baskets, and cars, as well as by foot. This is when the name “Meals on Wheels” was coined.
This photograph depicts members of a London WVS centre, in 1947, loading pails containing individually portioned meals into a delivery van. Source: Royal Voluntary Service
Meals on Wheels first started in the United States in 1954. Margaret Toy, who was a social worker in Philadelphia, pioneered a program to support the nourishment of homebound seniors and “shut-ins” in the area. Many of the volunteers were called “Platter Angels” who were high school students who volunteered to package and distribute food. Soon enough, Meals on Wheels programs spread throughout the United States.
Meals on Wheels of East Boulder County was founded by Sue Marolf, a resident of Lafayette, in 1972. Sue volunteered at the Boulder Meals on Wheels in the early 1970s and saw a need for it in her community of East Boulder County. She gathered a Board of Directors and two staff members to help create what is now Coal Creek Meals on Wheels. The first meals were made on a small four-burner stove top in the First United Methodist Church of Lafayette and delivered to residents on December 4, 1972.
Sue Marolf and a kitchen attendant in 1973.
Meals on Wheels of East Boulder County became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 1973.
The original Board of Directors of Meals on Wheels of East Boulder County in 1972.
Construction of the new First United Methodist Church building was completed in 1999. Meals on Wheels of East Boulder County moved in and used their new commercial kitchen to continue providing meals to the community.
First United Methodist Church new building tour in 1999.
The organization hired its first paid director, Melinda Hall. Melinda led the organization from 2009-2011 and set the stage for the organization to continue to thrive and grow.
Melinda at the Lafayette Oatmeal Festival in 2010.
Meals on Wheels of East Boulder changed its name to Coal Creek Meals on Wheels in 2012. Our organization went through a rebranding in an attempt to distinguish ourselves from Boulder Meals on Wheels. In 2020, we added the cities that we serve to our logo.
Changes to the Coal Creek Meals on Wheels logo over time.
In 2015, Coal Creek Meals on Wheels moved from the First United Methodist Church of Lafayette to our current location in the Josephine Commons. Meals on Wheels is ever-expanding and growing. There are over 5,000 programs across the country.
Ribbon cutting ceremony at Josephine Commons in 2015.
Today, Coal Creek Meals on Wheels serves over 40,000 meals to our neighbors in need each year. We have no restrictions or requirements to receive our services - we provide a ready-to-eat meal and social contact to anyone in need!
CCMOW sign outside of Josephine Commons.