Meals on Wheels CEO following through on childhood passion to feed those in need
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Every night, more than 5 million senior citizens across the country go to bed without a meal, not knowing when they will get their next one, according to new research from Feeding America. Here in the Tri-State, one woman is making it her mission to lower that number.
Meals on Wheels delivers roughly 4,000 meals across the Tri-State every day to people in need.
Overseeing the day-to-day operations is CEO Jennifer Steele.
“What Meals on Wheels does is deliver meals to the homes of seniors who are usually homebound and have very limited family support,” Steele explained. “We’re often the only people they might see in an entire week.”
The meals are homemade and packed with care then flash frozen to guarantee freshness.
Steele says the Tri-State site is one of the largest Meals on Wheels in the country.
Their operation was truly put to the test in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States.
“Our demand literally tripled overnight,” Steele recalled. “We were serving as many meals in one week as we typically did in a month and so our team really just had to pull together. We had to be really flexible, nimble and brave.”
A challenge like the one they endured in 2020 is one Steele has been preparing for since she was a child.
Steele tells us, that from the age of seven she felt a calling that her purpose in life was to help other people in need.
“I used to go downtown with my dad, he worked downtown, I would see people on the sidewalk asking for money and I would always want to help,” said Steele. “My dad decided he needed to channel that energy into a really productive way and he took me to volunteer at a soup kitchen. It was the Fair Haven rescue mission. I remember it was a men’s shelter and I sort of fell in love with serving others.”
Her passion has now gained the admiration of many across the Tri-State.
In May, she was honored with the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Award, by the Chamber of Commerce.
She also serves on the National Board of Directors for Meals on Wheels America and continues to teach social work classes at Northern Kentucky University, her alma mater.
“I gained so much from what I learned from those who taught me and with people who were able to lead by example so I hope I’m able to do that for others too,” explained Steele.
Steele says one of the most critical parts of being a great leader is to surround yourself with incredible people. She says many of her accomplishments have come with the help of a great team.
This story is part of a weekly segment called Breaking Through.
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