All posts by Michele

Executive Director Pam Bechtel to Retire September 1

pamheadshot 003

Today Executive Director Pam Bechtel announced that she will retire on September 1 after 18 years.

Before joining Meals on Wheels, her experience included 4 years of development and fundraising at two local nonprofits and 22 years as a banking manager.

Her connection to Meals on Wheels started out on a personal level as both of her parents were clients of the Agency.  When the executive director position became available in 1999, she knew it was a great fit.  “When I interviewed for this job, I told the search committee that I knew this was a wonderful service because my parents had been clients for over a year.” Her parents loved seeing the volunteers and developed a very special relationship with them.  Even after her parents passed away, Pam said that she made it her mission ‘to treat each client as she would members of her own family, with kindness, courtesy and dignity. “Fortunately, we have a staff that feels the same way so I know I leave the agency in good hands.”

“When I started, I had no idea how much I would love this job. It has been an incredibly rewarding career.”

“I feel so strongly that good nutrition can make such a significant difference in quality of life and health. I’ve seen it time and time again with our clients. Someone has become stronger and able to be more functional, their blood sugar numbers are better after eating better, they lose weight, they gain weight; they feel better knowing someone is checking on them. Our meal, coupled with other services, helps our clients stay as healthy as possible and in their home longer,” Bechtel said.

“When I first started working at Meals on Wheels, we served about 330 people daily. Now we serve 450 people a day and over 800 each year.  Our population is aging and people want to age in place at home. It feels good to know you are helping them do that.”

“I’m really proud of our program. It’s been a combination of a fantastic staff, amazing volunteers, a committed board and generous donors. It takes a community of people to run an agency.”

Meals on Wheels deliveries are all made by volunteers. “I love our volunteers,” she said. “They are some of the kindest, most dedicated people I have ever met. They brighten the lives of our clients while delivering meals. One client told me that she likes when Monday comes because she likes seeing the volunteers again. The weekends can be long without a visitor.”

Meals on Wheels volunteers provide a well-being check along with the meals. They are often the most reliable contact some of our agency’s clients have. Those visits have literally saved lives.

“One of my favorite things about working here is visiting clients when they turn 100. We’ve had quite a few over the years. I love delivering balloons and a cake and hearing their stories.”

“Delivering meals has also kept me in touch with our clients and has given me a greater appreciation for what the volunteers do. I delivered meals after hurricane Sandy and one client, without power, was sitting in her living room in a big red sweater and blue gloves. When I inquired about her well-being, she said her grandson had brought her a big, hot tea that morning. She told me that she raised three boys and they did a lot of camping as a family so she was used to roughing it!”

Bechtel will continue to help out during the transition as the interim director, Deb Cummins becomes familiar with the role. Deb was the former CEO of Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley and will be providing leadership consulting as the board reflects and plans its next steps for the future. Deb did some work for the agency last year around mission and vision. She loves the Meals on Wheels mission and is excited to take on this role. Bechtel said: “I’ve known Deb over the years and know she will do a great job.”

“I am going to miss the daily contact with my staff. We’re a pretty close-knit group and we’ve had a lot of fun while we work. That will be a big change for me,” Bechtel says. Like everyone who retires, she has a to-do list and bucket list a mile long. “I plan to volunteer and visit family and friends a lot more often. I’m looking forward to experiencing all that this next phase of my life has to offer.”






We Need You to Ensure Our Clients Have Food When We Can’t Deliver Meals

It is summer but we are starting to prepare for the winter months at Meals on Wheels.

Every year we depend upon our community to collect specific shelf-stable food items like tuna, beef stew, fruit cups and oatmeal so that our clients have food to eat when we can’t deliver.  We need to fill 1,200 “blizzard bags.”

This is a great project for companies, groups, organizations, and individuals who need community service hours. Every bag has to be the same and we need specific items in certain sizes, so we need you to coordinate with our office.

If you are interested in helping, please contact Janelle Longenbach at 610-398-2563 or


Delivering blizzard bags during Hurricane Sandy

Delivering blizzard bags during Hurricane Sandy

Opinion: Impact of Proposed Federal Budget Cuts

By Pamela S. Bechtel, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels of Lehigh Colunty & JoAnn Nenow, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels of Northampton County

Our social service safety net is under greater threat than we have seen in recent times. The proposed fiscal year 2018 federal budget includes decreases for sources of funding that support Meals on Wheels programs in the Lehigh Valley and across the country.

These decreases include funding for the Older Americans Act, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid and elimination of the Community Development Block Grant. If these cuts are put in place, private funding sources (such as individual contributions and grants) will have to be stretched even farther to meet the growing need for home-delivered meals for our home-bound neighbors.

Federal funding provides the foundation for the Meals on Wheels nationwide network. Consider these facts: Eight out of ten Meals on Wheels programs receive federal funding in some form. And two out of three of these programs rely on federal funding to cover 1/3 or more of their operating budget.

To meet the need for home-delivered meals, wellness checks and friendly visits to more than 2,400 clients here in the Lehigh Valley, our two Meals on Wheels programs in Lehigh and Northampton counties depend on a combination of federal funding, private donations, state funding and sliding-scale fees.  Now is the time to invest further in this vital public-private partnership to ensure our vulnerable seniors are not forgotten.

Any federal cuts will force Meals on Wheels programs across the country to make tough choices, including the possibility of creating a waiting list for meals, reducing the number of days meals are served or eliminate special diets and preferences. This would be devastating to those who need our program. Our clients cannot cook or shop for themselves and they need home-delivered meals because they have no other way to get the nutritious meals they need to improve their health and well-being. Many of them need special medically tailored meals.

We know that 96 percent of our clients tell us that Meals on Wheels provides them with their main source of food. If we are forced to cut back and serve fewer seniors, these vulnerable at-risk people will be hungry and their health will be compromised. How can we make them wait?

Reductions or even level federal funding will only make matters worse, as the demand for Meals on Wheels is already significant and rapidly growing. One in six seniors struggles with hunger every day, and the senior population is expected to double by 2050.

According to Christine Miccio, Director of Bureau of Aging Services at the PA Department of Aging (PDA), with more than 3.9 million Baby Boomers projected to become eligible for aging services in Pennsylvania by 2020, PDA anticipates the demand for home-delivered meal services will “rise concurrently and become that much more important to helping to ensure that the nutritional and health needs of seniors are adequately met while helping them to age in place in their homes and communities.”

Older Americans Act nutrition programs are already serving 23 million fewer meals today than they were in 2005, due to funding failing to keep pace with an increasing need. And on top of federal funding cuts are state budget cuts, increasing transportation and food costs and the increasing number of nonprofit organizations who are accessing the same donor pools for funding.

At this critical time, when both the need and demand for nutritious meals are substantial and growing, Congress must make the needs of our most vulnerable and isolated seniors a higher priority. Now is the time to tell our Representatives and Senators to save lunch for our clients by protecting and increasing federal funding for Meals on Wheels programs and putting a balanced budget in place.


Highmark Walkers, Donors and Sponsors Raise $18,825

Walk2017team piccompressed

On June 3, 58 hardy walkers braved the rain to participate in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community and raised $18,825 to subsidize 5088 meals for low-income clients.

We appreciate the support of the following major sponsors:

Platinum: TDS Technologies, The Pidcock Company, & The Hartford

Gold: American Bank, Olympus Corporation Of The Americas, Dun & Bradstreet, Country Meadows, Fellowship Community, & Jamie & Tom Koch & family

Silver: Campbell Rappold & Yurasits, LLS Graphics, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Lehigh County Medical Society & Servpro of Easton, Bethlehem & Whitehall

Top 5 individual fundraisers: Joy Reed, Lisa Oldt, Dawn Davis, Michele Grasso and Tracey Huffman

Top 5 teams: Meals on Wheels office, The Pidcock Company, Fellowship Community, The Hartford and Servpro of Easton, Bethlehem & Whitehall.

Volunteer Matt McTish won the Kindle Paperwhite Reader donated as an incentive prize by Joy Reed. Matt graciously donated this prize back to Meals on Wheels to be used as a raffle prize for our Bountiful Bowl fundraising event set for November 10.

Meals on Wheels Awarded a $16,896 Subaru Share the Love Grant

Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County is proud to announce it has received a $16,896 grant from Meals on Wheels America for its participation in Subaru of America’s ninth annual Share the Love Event. During the event held from November 17, 2016 through January 3, 2016, Subaru of America, Inc. donated $250 for every new Subaru vehicle purchased or leased to the customer’s choice of participating charities, including Meals on Wheels America, of which Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County is a Member.

Michele Grasso, Director of Development and Communications, said: “This year we need to raise $650,000 to meet the need for home-delivered meals, friendly visits and well-being checks for 450 homebound seniors and adults with disabilities each weekday. We cannot thank Subaru of America enough for supporting our program and hundreds across the country so that we may meet our mission of helping our clients to live nourished lives in their own homes, where they want to be.”

Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County partnered with Ciocca Subaru during the 2016 holiday season to raise funds and awareness of senior isolation and hunger in Lehigh County. Subaru employees delivered meals and learned first-hand the importance of this service that helps people live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.

Executive Directors of Meals on Wheels Lehigh & Northampton on Proposed Federal Budget Cuts

From Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County Executive Director, Pamela S. Bechtel and Meals on Wheels of Northampton County Executive Director JoAnn Bergeron Nenow

The first budget blueprint to Congress has caused a great deal of concern and confusion. Many media outlets, for instance, incorrectly reported initially that the government was defunding Meals on Wheels programs.


We received a lot of unexpected attention as a result – and a lot of concern from the people we serve, our dedicated volunteers and the public at large. We need to separate fact from fiction so people understand the ramifications that proposed federal budget cuts could have.


Meals On Wheels is not a federal program and, thus, can’t be eliminated by any federal budget. Meals on Wheels is a proven public-private partnership that successfully improves the quality of life for our most vulnerable seniors and adults with disabilities. We ensure that our clients receive the nutrition they need to stay healthy and live in their homes for as long as possible.


Our Meals on Wheels programs in Northampton and Lehigh counties are independent nonprofit organizations and aren’t chapters of a national organization. This year, we must raise a combined total of $1.2 million to meet the needs of our community.


Our funding comes from a number of sources. Our programs depend on client payments that are on a sliding scale but don’t cover the cost of their meals. We also depend on government funding, which accounts for about one-fourth of funding for both of our agencies. This funding includes the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program – a program that the budget blueprint would discontinue.


Over the past five years, we have received more than $280,000 in grant monies from our counties’ CDBG programs. These grants helped to purchase meals, commercial kitchen equipment as well as fresh produce from area farms through our Better Fresh Project, an initiative that incorporates locally grown fruits and vegetables into our clients’ daily meals.


Of greater concern is the proposed 17.9-percent cut in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services. The primary source of federal government funds for Meals on Wheels programs under the Older Americans’ Act (OAA) comes from this department.  Nationally, 35 percent of the total funding for Meals on Wheels (both for senior center meals and home-delivered programs) comes from OAA.


Details for if, or how, OAA will be impacted by the proposed budget have not yet been released, but any cuts to OAA will surely have an impact on Pennsylvania and our local Meals on Wheels programs.


Our state ranks fourth among all states in the percentage of people who are 65 and older. By 2030, Pennsylvania’s 60-and-older population is expected to be 29 percent of the population—approximately 4 million people.


Governor Wolf’s Bureau of Aging Director, Christine Miccio, told the House Aging and Adult Services Committee that, with more than 3.9 million Baby Boomers projected to become eligible for aging services in Pennsylvania by 2020, the department anticipates the demand for congregate and home delivered services to rise concurrently.


Here in the Lehigh Valley, we expect to serve 565,000 meals this year to our clients and to those whom we serve under meal contracts. We are serving 24 percent more meals than we did just four years ago.  Trends in our aging demographics show that the need for our program will continue to increase.


We have proudly served our community for more than 45 years and will do so for many more years to come. While we will continue to provide meal deliveries, friendly visits and other programs such as grocery shopping services, the proposed budget cuts, if enacted, will force us to find additional sources of private funding which will be challenging.


Congress will ultimately decide how funds will and won’t be allocated in the next budget, but a 17.9-percent cut in funding to the Department of Health and Human Services and the potential loss of CDBG funding are truly worrisome.



Donations to Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County Help Your Homebound Neighbors

When you donate to our program, you can rest assured that your money will be used for meals to a homebound senior or adult with a disability living in Lehigh County.

Meals on Wheels programs across the country are not chapters of a national organization. Although they may belong to Meals on Wheels America, which provides education and advocacy services, they operate independently.

Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County was founded in 1971 by a group of concerned local citizens who learned of an Allentown couple almost starving because they had no family to help them. Our founders never wanted this to happen again in Lehigh County.

About 23% of our budget comes from government funding. If this funding was cut, we would have to find additional money from our community or institute a waiting list for our program. Seniors can’t wait–so we depend upon our community for the majority of the $650,000 we need to raise this year.

Meals on Wheels Elects Executive Board and Members at Annual Meeting

At its Annual Meeting today, Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County Board members elected the Agency’s  2017 executive board:  President, Lisa A. Luciano, Lafayette Ambassador Bank; Vice-President, Brooke Griffiths, Lehigh Valley Health Network; Treasurer, Rosemary Lamaestra, RLB Accountants; and Secretary, Pamela Koons-Hartnett, St. Luke’s Health Network.

Kim Laurito, American Bank and Cindy Merritt, Buckno, Lisicky and Co. were reelected to serve two-year terms.  Pat Blahnick, Wells Fargo Bank, was elected to a six-year term.

The Board bid farewell to outgoing President and Board Member, Julie Profilet-Saucier, KCBA Architects, who has served the Agency for six years.

Community and Volunteers Bring Holiday Cheer

Every year our clients receive gifts from members of our community, but this year was extra special. Every one of our 450 clients received at least one gift.

This generous support means so much to our homebound clients. Thanks so much to those on the following list for bringing holiday cheer.

And, thank you so much to our volunteers who went above and beyond delivering gifts as well as providing their own gifts to clients in addition to meals, groceries, pet food and litter, soups and frozen weekend packs.

Happy holidays!

Donated Gifts for Clients 2016

Air Products Operation Santa Claus—45 large gifts for clients

Allentown Garden Club—holiday arrangements in mugs for every client

Anonymous crocheted lap blankets

Crazy Quilters—handmade placemats

Caregivers of America— set up giving trees throughout the community and community members donated gifts


Ten Thousand Villages—customers donated ornaments

GS Cadette Troop 6232—decorated bags to wrap gifts

3900 Hamilton St Shopping Center—asked customers to donate items

Home Instead—set up giving trees throughout the community and community members donated gifts

Lehigh Valley Health Network employees—30 table-top trees with gifts

Meals on Wheels Volunteers

A couple of Meals on Wheels Clients sent homemade ornaments & crafts for other clients

Alyssa Thomas and Larry Peck

Union UCC church

Salisbury Elementary School First Graders