Amarillo Meals on Wheels is one step closer to its goal of relocation.
During Monday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, members voted 5-0 to grant a rezoning request from agriculture to office space, clearing the way for a 31,500-square-foot tract of land in the vicinity of Outlook Drive and South Coulter Street.
Meals on Wheels officials said the organization is in the midst of a fundraising campaign that has reached 75 percent of the $700,000 goal, with a timely move from 219 W. Seventh Ave. hinging on all of the funds being collected.
“We want to raise all of the money before we go anywhere,” said Meals on Wheels executive director Susie Akers, who ideally envisions a scenario in which ground is broken this summer and the organization is in the new venue by Christmas. “We were hoping everything would go smoothly with the rezoning vote and are pleased there weren’t any objections or red flags.”
Planning staff member David Moore said the rezoning request is consistent with the adopted 2010 Comprehensive Future Land Use and Character Map, which designates the area for a future business park land use. He said the Comprehensive Plan states the development type in the designation should be that associated with office, medical, and technology and research uses, with commercial retail uses to serve local workers and visitors.
Meals on Wheels personnel said the relocation effort primarily stems from the fact that for the first time in just over 30 years the organization is facing the prospect of having to pay rent. The current venue is also a sizable distance from where the meals are prepped.
“We had been receiving rent-free space from the donor who owned the building,” said Akers, who noted the program serves 235 clients a noontime meal Monday through Friday. “But things changed and they started having to charge us. Also, BSA Health System and Northwest Texas Hospital prepare the meals, so relocation provides us with an opportunity to be closer to them as a means of providing more efficient service to our program participants.”
Akers said Amarillo Meals on Wheels has 300 volunteers who deliver meals with their own vehicles and offered effusive praise for their due diligence.
“Without our volunteers, there would be a lot of people without food,” she said, adding that the organization does not accept state or federal funding and hasn’t raised the meal price of $2.25 in 18 years. “The food is important and the safety check that accompanies the delivery is priceless. We’ve been around since 1971 and some of our volunteers have been offering their services for 20-plus years. We want to be in a position to continually fill this critical need and our volunteers are a key component of that goal.”