Gwen's Meals program expands into Alderson area

Tina Alvey, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.
·3 min read

Apr. 8—Shepherd's Center of Greenbrier Valley has extended its feeding program for elders, Gwen's Meals, to the Alderson area.

Named in memory of Gwen Clingman, a much-beloved Lewisburg restaurateur, Gwen's Meals has been providing nutritious food to sick and homebound people in the Greenbrier Valley and Meadow River Valley since 2003.

Organizers had tried before to extend the program into Alderson, but those previous efforts were unsuccessful.

"It is a big commitment and, as all nonprofits know, finding volunteers is an ongoing issue," Shepherd's Center executive director Teresa Bostic said in a media release announcing the feeding program's expansion.

Brian DeRouen, one of the newest members of Shepherd's Center's board of trustees, was key to this year's Alderson expansion, according to the media release.

The co-director of the Alderson Hospitality House, DeRouen and his wife, Kathleen, along with their sons, Micah and Vitali, host people who are visiting family members incarcerated at the nearby federal prison camp for women. Guests at hospitality house are provided a place to stay and meals, free of charge.

Due to restrictions on visitors during the pandemic, the DeRouens found they had extra time on their hands. Having learned about Gwen's Meals when he joined the Shepherd's Center board in January, Brian DeRouen soon expressed an interest in working toward bringing the program to Alderson.

With their work at the hospitality house, DeRouen and his wife were used to cooking large quantities of food for the facility's guests and declared they were willing to prepare and deliver the weekly Gwen's Meals themselves.

In collaboration with the DeRouens, Shepherd's Center officials decided to begin with 20 meals a week in the Alderson area, leaving room to expand further, as needed.

Early in the pandemic, DeRouen had delivered meals for the Feeding Seniors community program and, thus, knew several possible candidates to receive meals. He also contacted local churches to identify other potential recipients for meals and to recruit volunteers to help with the effort.

"We decided April as our start date, and on April 5 the first meals were prepared in the kitchen of the hospitality house and meals were delivered by Brian and Kathleen, with help from their son, Vitali (Tali)," Bostic said. "Success! Recipients were happy to receive a good meal, and it was rewarding to those delivering."

Volunteers like the DeRouens are the backbone of the Shepherd's Center's programs and services.

"Please consider sharing your time and talents to bring joy and a good meal to the older adults in and around the Alderson area," Bostic said. "Our programs are dependent on donations and grants. We are so thankful for those in the community who so generously donate to Shepherd's Center each year. You can donate online via our webpage (www.greenbriershepherdscenter.com) or send your gift to P.O. Box 54, Lewisburg WV 24901."

Anyone who would like to volunteer to help prepare or deliver Gwen's Meals in Alderson or who knows of someone who would like to receive a meal may contact Brian DeRouen at 304-445-5231 or call the Shepherd's Center office in Lewisburg at 304-645-4196.

— Email: talvey@register-herald.com