EASLEY — Pickens County Meals on Wheels took a big step forward last week with the donation of Liberty Middle Schools kitchen and cafeteria from Pickens County.
Meals on Wheels Director Meta Bowers said the decision came at the last Pickens County Council meeting.
She says she could have the kitchen up and operating for Meals on Wheels clients as soon as this summer.
In addition to the commercial kitchen, the cafeteria and four classrooms on a lower level, Meals on Wheels received a $36,000 grant over three years to help pay for HVAC improvements to the facility and $50,000 comes from Wal-Mart for assistance with other improvements, including equipment to package the prepared food.
An initial benefit will allow Meals on wheels to feed more clients for the same amount of operating expense, Bowers said.
“We serve 240 clients daily,” she said. Current meals are purchased from Greenville Meals on Wheels. “It has been a good partnership.”
Meals are distributed to route drivers at the office on South Pendleton Street and drop locations in Liberty and Pickens
Since 2011, Bowers has seen the number of clients increase by 16 percent. The agency delivers a hot meal each weekday to mainly retired people.
“With our aging population, the numbers are only going to increase for a while,” she said.
The facility opens opportunities to the agency she said, including the possibility of subcontracting meals to other agencies. Having the options also gives Meals on Wheels a better shot at grants for additional projects. “If you have more you can do more,” she said.
Over the coming months, in addition to making the needed improvements to the building and equipment, she will be hiring a kitchen manager and one assistant. Distribution and some other tasks are handled by volunteers.