Giving Back

Alexandria’s Meals on Wheels Program Overcomes Challenges Following Fire at Jeffrey’s Catering

Wheeler Ave. fire on Jan. 2 caused $5M in damages

Firefighters work to contain the overnight fire in tthe industrial section of Wheeler Ave., Jan. 2, 2024. (Photo courtesy City of Alexandria)

ALEXANDRIA, VA-For seniors confined to their homes, Meals on Wheels serves as a lifeline, providing essential daily nutrition. The City of Alexandria’s Meals on Wheels program, operated by Senior Services of Alexandria, is committed to delivering meals 365 days a year, regardless of weather or challenges. Recently, when the program’s meal supplier, Jeffery’s Catering, faced a significant setback due to a fire on Jan.2, 2024, the community came together to ensure the continuity of this crucial initiative.

In an interview with Zebra Press, Marshall Hespe, Director of Nutrition Programs for Meals on Wheels, expressed gratitude for the swift response and collaborative efforts of various partners that guaranteed uninterrupted meal deliveries.

“Meals on Wheels is designed for seniors who may need the service indefinitely,” he said. “Many clients rely on the program for years, especially those who are homebound and lack the ability to cook or access groceries independently.”

Left: Marshall Hespe, SSA Director of Nutrition, with Josh Bagley, Executive Director of The View, prepping coolers for delivery. (Photo: Marshall Hespe)

Hespe also acknowledged the vital partnerships that played an important role in overcoming the challenges posed by the fire that caused around $5 million of damages in a matter of hours. Jeffery’s Catering, one of the affected businesses, is the main provider for Meals on Wheels in the area.

Partnerships with the Division of Aging and Adult Services, The View, and Goodwin House helped Meals on Wheels function despite the disruption.  Mary Lee Anderson, the program’s executive director, emphasized the dedication of all parties involved, including volunteers.

“We are extremely grateful to all those who stepped up to help get fresh meals to our clients during this challenging time,” said Anderson. “The level of cooperation and support we received demonstrate what a caring community Alexandria is, not only during a crisis, but every day.”

Josh Bagley, Executive Director of The View, and the dedicated team at Goodwin Living promptly responded to the urgent request for assistance. The kitchen staff worked diligently to prepare two cold meals for each client the very next day. The support from The View proved to be invaluable, showcasing their exceptional care for seniors and the community at large.

Sheriff Sean Casey, his wife, and dedicated volunteers delivering meals on MLK Day (Photo: Marshal Hespe)

The Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities facilitated meal pickups at Chinquapin Rec Center with the assistance of Senior Services volunteers. Their support highlights the strength of the community. The Alexandria Sheriff’s Office also routinely assists with meal delivery.

“The Sheriff’s Office is committed to helping senior services deliver meals on wheels to our seniors wherever the meals are being prepared!” Sheriff Sean Casey wrote in a statement.

Jeffery’s Catering managed to resume service from a temporary site on Jan. 16. Clients are now receiving the hot meals they usually enjoy.

This crisis serves as a reminder of the community spirit that emerges in times of need.

[SEE ALSO: Alexandria Police Department Reports Abandoned Child in Good Health]

Eliza North

Eliza North is a British/American writer. She is currently a freelance reporter at Zebra Press. Eliza studied Social Sciences at Kensington and Chelsea College, and went on to earn her Bachelors in Psychology at the University of Kent in Canterbury England. She recently graduated from The University of Cambridge, earning her Masters degree in Creative Writing.

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