Pekin Mobile Dinner

One of the most important service projects initiated by Pekin Rotary Club is the Pekin Mobile Diner, due primarily to the efforts of Mike Caringello. Mike had recognized a real need for this service in our community and brought the initial proposal to Rotary in late 1978. He was the volunteer manager and coordinator for twelve years, devoting hundreds of hours to the project each year.

The Pekin Mobile Diner is a home-delivered meals program that caters exclusively to disabled citizens of Pekin - individuals who are homebound and unable to prepare meals for themselves. The majority of people who use this program are between 70 and 90 years of age and live alone.

A full complement of meals are delivered – a cold breakfast, a hot noon meal, and a cold evening meal are brought every day except Sunday. The breakfast and evening meals are optional.

The meals are prepared by the Beechwood Health Care Center. Regular and special diet meals are prepared. All meals are delivered just before noon each day by a part-time driver who is the only paid person in the program.

The first noon meal was delivered on May 7, 1979, to nineteen people. For the past several years, the daily average number of meals delivered is twenty-seven. To date, over 130,000 noon meals have been delivered to the disabled in the Pekin area. The first evening meal was provided on January 7, 1985, and the breakfast was added on May 1, 1986.

The Pekin Mobile Diner is administered by a Board of Directors consisting of eleven volunteers - seven Rotarians and four non-Rotarians. It is managed on a daily basis by a volunteer Rotarian coordinator.

Patrons pay part of the cost of the hot noon meal and all the cost of the optional breakfast and evening meal. The balance of the cost is underwritten by Pekin Rotary Club ($2,500 per year) and the United Way. The Pekin Township Board has periodically provided a new van to transport the meals. No one is denied participation in the program because of inability to pay.

The Pekin Mobile Diner does more for its patrons than deliver meals. It responds to medical emergencies and to the general needs of disabled elderly people. It provided a friendly, secure contact each day, which tends to reduce the loneliness that befalls many of the patrons. It allows some people to be dismissed earlier from the hospital than might normally be expected, and allows some disabled people to delay admittance to a nursing home or similar facility.

The Pekin Mobile Diner not only meets the nutritional needs of people who cannot take care of themselves, but it allows elderly, disabled people who live alone to remain in their own homes - at least for a little while longer. When that happens, they are happier and more content.

This is a daily, year-round project of Pekin Rotary Club in its effort to give “service above self”.