St. Vincent Meals on Wheels is the largest privately-funded meals program in the country. From January 1, 1997 to December 31, 1997, the program served a total of 821,226 meals—an average of 2,250 meals per day. In order to deliver meals to their many clients, they drive hundreds of miles each day, adding up to 189,315 miles in 1997 alone. Meals on Wheels has a paid staff of 90, but they rely heavily on their 175+ volunteers. These volunteers help to prepare and deliver meals seven days a week.
Sister Alice Marie Quinn founded this program in 1973. Approximately 25 years ago, Sister Alice Marie and a handful of volunteers dished the first batch of beef stew dinners for 100 seniors in the parish hall of a church located in downtown Los Angeles. Today she oversees the largest and most successful, privately funded meals program in the United States. In February 1997, Sister Alice Marie and her Meals on Wheels program served its eight-millionth meal.
After earning a bachelor's degree and certification as a dietitian, Sister Quinn worked in food services in hospitals in New Orleans and San Francisco. She took a post as an assistant dietitian at St. Vincent Medical Center. Those years of experience helped her tremendously. Now out of the 2,000 home-delivery clients, more than 400 receive meals specially prepared for their medical needs or personal preferences. Two hundred clients prefer to receive a week's worth of frozen meals instead of daily delivery. Eight hundred clients also receive cold suppers to eat later in the day. Two hundred of the neediest clients, who depend on meals on wheels for everything they eat, also receive a breakfast.
Sister Alice Marie has recently started a new program that recruits volunteers who are willing to help senior citizens clean their homes.
Sister Alice Marie is a full-time volunteer. She is at her desk by 7 a.m. every morning. Every day, she plans menus, supervises food purchases, wheedles donations and oversees food preparation and delivery. On weekends, she delivers meals herself, stopping to chat with clients who are lonely and crave companionship.
For her dedication to the needy, the 800-member National Association of Meal Programs in Alexandria, VA, awarded Sister Quinn with its Distinguished Executive Award in 1995. Sister Alice Marie is an extraordinary woman that has truly dedicated her life to helping others.