Ft. Lauderdale's Broward Meals On Wheels (BMOW), founded in 1985, is a private not-for-profit organization that provides service to senior citizens. BMOW's self-described "mission is to provide essential services to improve health, reduce isolation, and promote independent living for seniors in our community." Its programs and services include home delivered meals, meals for companion pets, nutrition education, grocery shopping, and congregate meal dining sites.
In January 2013 Mark Adler became BMOW's Executive Director. The openly-gay Adler comes to BMOW with excellent credentials: "I have been in non-profit management for nearly 25 years, coming to Fort Lauderdale from San Diego after serving 2 years in the Peace Corps in Guyana. I spent 25 years with Planned Parenthood from California to Florida and was hired to start up SunServe as Executive Director here in Fort Lauderdale in 2003. During my time at Planned Parenthood and at SunServe, I worked on many projects in collaboration with the Pride Center (or what was then the GLCC). I worked with Ken Merrifield and other senior advocates from the LGBT community in forming the Tuesday morning Coffee and Conversation group with the GLCC's Senior Advisory Council back around 2008. I joined the BMOW team a year and a half ago as Associate Executive Director and upon the retirement of our ED, was chosen to lead the agency."
"Mark was unanimously chosen by our Board of Directors in January to lead the agency into its new chapter," says Amber VanBuren, BMOW's Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator. "We are thrilled he is here."
On January 8th, BMOW began offering free lunches at the Pride Center's Tuesday morning "Coffee and Conversation" meetings.
"BMOW and the Pride Center had made attempts to start a dining program at the old GLCC and the new Pride Center almost 2 years ago, but the kitchen area was not ready and there were some hurdles to overcome in paperwork and staffing concerns," Adler recalls.
"When I approached Robert Boo, Pride Center Executive Director, we decided to go for it and we worked out the kinks as we went along, with great help from Bruce Williams, formerly the Chair of the Senior Advisory Council and now the new Service Services Coordinator at the Pride Center. BMOW is providing staff - Simon, our Site Administrator and Howard, a BMOW volunteer and member of the Coffee and Conversation Group - to make sure things run smoothly, as I was called to attend to my new Executive Director role. This truly collaborative approach was and continues to be the key to the great success for the program."
"Every Tuesday," Adler continues, "approximately 120-150 people gather at the Center for Coffee and Conversation and of those, currently 85 stay for lunch. BMOW uses a gourmet catering service, Four Star Catering, to provide people age 60 or better, their caregivers, and volunteers for the program with a tasty and nutritious lunch of either wraps, sandwiches, or salads with fruit, yogurt, and different side dishes (it varies each week). There is no charge to those who participate, but donations are greatly appreciated and help BMOW to feed even more seniors in need. The idea of this dining experience is to allow these people, some of which may not eat a nutritionally balanced meal each day, to socialize in a warm and accepting environment and not to have to eat in isolation, or perhaps not eat at all." Not surprisingly, the response from the seniors who take part in the program is "tremendous and very thankful."
Needless to say, BMOW's free lunch program costs money. According to Adler, "we receive about 65% of our budget from the Federal Older Americans Act through the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Broward County. 15% of our budget comes through contracts with Medicaid waiver and private Nursing Home Diversion programs, 15% from private pay clients, other grants, corporations and foundations and the remaining 5% comes from donations. The Pride Center Coffee and Conversation group immediately became one of our most generous donors when it comes to donations."
VanBuren adds that "we receive donations from multiple sources including clients, private donors, and community partners. We are always looking for innovative ways to raise money."
BMOW's contributions to Broward's LGBT seniors go beyond the free lunches at the Pride Center. According to Adler, "we provide meals to SunServe's Noble A. McArtur Senior Center and an unknown number of homebound LGBT individuals. We also participate each year in the Pride Center's Pride Expo, have presented at SunServe's Silver Serve Group, and have a team in the annual AIDS Walk. We look forward to getting more involved serving the LGBT community."
For more information on this or any of BMOW's programs and services, please visit the website at www.bmow.org, or call 954-731-8770.