How REAL Services Started Businesses To Fund Meals On Wheels –

How REAL Services Started Businesses To Fund Meals On Wheels –

(FM Engaged Photo/Krystal Vivian)

REAL Services is dedicated to helping elderly and low-income people become and stay independent for life. If you or someone you love needs help, call REAL Services at 574-233-8205.

By: REAL ServicesHome Comfort Experts

When you’re operating a not-for-profit organization, ensuring funding sources for programs can be a tremendous challenge.

Government funding helps provide financial resources for programs like REAL Services’ Meals on Wheels. But funding from the government is never a guarantee, and it makes programs vulnerable to cutbacks.

That’s why it’s important for nonprofits like REAL Services to have a plan to keep their programs running. While 30% of the funding for Meals on Wheels comes from the donations of clients and community partners, diversification is key to longevity and success. Thankfully, before the government cutbacks in 2020, George Hawthorne and Becky Zaseck already laid the groundwork for supplementing the funding for Meals on Wheels.

Hawthorne, the director of nutrition and transportation, and Zaseck, the CEO, made a presentation to a business class at Notre Dame  in 2015. The class was tasked to look at a nonprofit and find a way to help them raise additional funds. One of the suggestions was to develop a food truck.

“It was a very intriguing presentation. We looked at it and we mulled it over for about a year and my CEO and I talked about it and decided it was a good idea,” Hawthorne says. “So, we jumped on the bandwagon and pushed it forward.”

Hawthorne says that one of the major advocates for the food truck — known as the REAL Grille — was a board member: Mary Jo Stanley. He credits her with being the driving force in raising every cent of the $160,000 that was needed to buy and outfit the REAL Grille.

The REAL Grille was completed in 2018, just in time to help offset potential funding losses from the cutbacks of the federal Older Americans Act.

“We were already looking for a way to raise additional resources due to the funding cut that we’d received from the federal and state government,” he says. “Expenses were going up too. In reality, even if you have flat funding, you always need to find a way to increase your income to be able to stay in business.”

Hawthorne says that the REAL Grille is best geared toward larger events — where 60 or more people are likely to gather — like South Bend’s Best Week Ever, corporate lunches like those at Beacon Health Systems and Barnes and Thornburg, and gatherings like the World Pulse Festival.

But the REAL Grille is just one piece of the puzzle in providing additional funding to Meals on Wheels. The nonprofit was already operating a catering service: Simply Catering to You.

REAL Services catering business started to take off when Hawthorne took over as the director of nutrition/transportation in 2009. The Meals on Wheels department had changed its physical location 13 times in the previous 26 years, and finally found a permanent home complete with a commercial kitchen.

“The previous person who ran just the Meals on Wheels …….


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