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.”