Today in the U.S., ten million seniors face the threat of hunger, and millions more live alone in isolation. Meals on Wheels already serves over two million homebound seniors annually, though with the senior population expected to double by 2050, there is an escalating need for a new wave of volunteers to step up to help seniors in their communities. That’s why Meals on Wheels America and the Ad Council today are kicking off a new chapter of their successful volunteer recruitment initiative, “America, Let’s Do Lunch”. Beyond the impact of a warm meal and a friendly smile to those served, the new PSAs turn the spotlight on the meaningful bonds that can develop between volunteers and homebound seniors, many of whom face isolation and loneliness.
Five thousand Meals on Wheels programs across the country deliver nearly one million meals daily, largely relying on a massive volunteer corps. The majority of these volunteers are 55 and older themselves, so, to inspire a new generation of volunteers, Ad Age’s 2017 Agency of the Year, Anomaly, developed a suite of creative assets pro bono that highlights the uniquely uplifting experience found in volunteering.
“Many of our clients see just one person throughout the whole day: their Meals on Wheels volunteer. With a smile, a kind ‘hello’ and a quick conversation, volunteers deliver so much more than a meal to their homebound neighbors,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. “This impact is not only meaningful to the seniors served – research overwhelmingly shows that volunteers delivering for Meals on Wheels find it so gratifying,they almost see it as ‘selfish’.”
It’s this personal reward that drives the power behind the integrated campaign – introducing the nation to the special connection shared between four real Meals on Wheels volunteers and some of the seniors to whom they deliver. More than capturing the fulfillment of doing something good for their community, the PSAs illustrate the genuine friendship, inspiration, humor and sage advice delivered in return by the seniors – all sparked by the volunteers delivering a meal in their neighborhood.
“The power of volunteering happens the moment you knock on that door, look someone in the eyes and make a connection. That’s what we’ve heard from so many of the people who’ve signed up to volunteer through this campaign,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “And we expect many more to sign up because Anomaly and our partners tell stories that not only pull at heartstrings, they empower people to take action and make an impact in their own communities.”
To amplify the message, “America, Let’s Do Lunch” is partnering with companies, organizations and media outlets passionate about the issue, including HowStuffWorks and their “Stuff You Should Know” podcast, and the campaign’s official rideshare partner, Uber, to elevate awareness of the benefits of supporting the program. Actor Richard Gere and social content creators the Vagabrothers, Kevin & Lil, and Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style are also joining the effort to serve as ambassadors for the campaign by sharing original content on their channels that discusses the importance of volunteering for Meals on Wheels, encouraging their audiences to do the same.
In just over a year and a half, the campaign has inspired nearly 90,000 new volunteers to sign up. It has secured over $50 million of donated media and formed partnerships with outlets like Upworthy, Facebook and The New York Times, and talent including Baddiewinkle and Meghan Camarena.
“Meals on Wheels provides such a fundamental service to so many seniors in America. But that’s not to say that seniors are the only ones that benefit,” said Eric Segal, Chief Creative Officer at Anomaly. “That’s why we decided to hone in on the bond between senior and volunteer. Showcasing that both parties get something out of the experience. It’s our goal that, with this new work, tens of thousands more Americans will take action and sign up.”