Washtenaw United: Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels celebrates the past and prepares for the future
ABOUT DANNI MURPHY:
Dannielle “Danni” Murphy joined the YMOW team as marketing and development manager in November 2022. Danni’s background includes event planning and extensive community engagement through her work with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Washtenaw County.
Danni said she’s eager to put her experience and skills to work for YMOW.
“I’d like to create engaging events that bring in new donors, reach new people and spread the mission,” Danni said.
A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Danni holds a bachelor’s degree in art history and a minor in fine arts. She has served on numerous Ypsi committees, including the 4th of July Parade, the Juneteenth Celebration, Downtown Association of Ypsilanti (DAY), and the Holy Bones Festival, which brought in over 1,500 people and raised over $12,000 to restore The Ypsi performance space. Danni is a founding member of The Renaissance Project, which raised thousands of dollars to establish a scholarship fund for kids to attend Center Stage Productions Drama Camp in the Riverside Arts Center theater.
Danni resides in Normal Park with her husband, three children and two cats. She loves to paint and create and hopes to develop opportunities for YMOW clients to stretch their artistic muscles for the good of the YMOW mission.
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU. And I'm David Fair. Welcome to a Thanksgiving week edition of Washtenaw United. This is our weekly exploration of equity and opportunity in our community. Now, while most of us are making some sort of plans with family and friends for the holidays, there are those who are more isolated and in need of assistance. For many, the only contact they will have this holiday is with the volunteers who deliver them food from Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels. Our guest today is Danni Murphy, and she serves as development and marketing manager for Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels as the organization prepares to celebrate 50 years of community service in 2024. Danni, thank you so much for making time for us today.
Danni Murphy: Thank you for having me.
David Fair: Well, first of all, congratulations! And thanks to all who have made the organization a difference maker for a half-century!
Danni Murphy: Yeah, we're really excited to be celebrating this milestone.
David Fair: I think one of the more under-recognized services Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels provides is a sense of connection and even companionship to those you serve. Is that the feedback you get from your clients?
Danni Murphy: Yeah, absolutely. That knock on the door that they can rely on is really important, especially for a lot of seniors that live alone.
David Fair: Give me a snapshot of who exactly you are serving in the Ypsilanti area with meal deliveries. Are there age and gender disparities that perhaps highlight some of the systemic inequities we continue to deal with?
Danni Murphy: Oh, yeah. So, we have a really diverse population of clients from a variety of dietary needs to a variety of cultural needs and medical needs. Most of our clients are medically homebound with some condition or other. Most live under the poverty level there. Our average income for our clients is about $989 a month, which is really hard to live on.
David Fair: No kidding.
Danni Murphy: So, yeah, it's incredible. We serve 75% of them are women. 40% of our clients are people of color. We have a number of LGBTQ seniors that we serve. So, yeah, there's a lot of diversity and inclusion issues in the work that we do.
David Fair: Any special treat is going to be offered for the folks on Thanksgiving?
Danni Murphy: Yeah, you know, we like to offer a really traditional Thanksgiving meal because, you know, you're home alone and that friendly face of the door and that little bit of home is nice to have delivered to you. So, our holiday meals tend to be very traditional. We do the turkey and the cranberries and the potatoes.
David Fair: That all sounds pretty good. As you mentioned, there's a lot of deliveries to be made. Are there occasions where they have time to maybe sit to spell and have a conversation and celebrate the holiday a little bit?
Danni Murphy: Yeah. You know, it really depends on the client. Some clients will come to the door, and they're ready to chat you up, and they want to have a little visit. And our caregivers and our volunteers definitely do that when needed. And some clients come to the door and they're like, "Thank you very much--"
David Fair: And close the door.
Danni Murphy: Yup. And "Have a good day!"
David Fair: I totally get it. We are talking with Danni Murphy from Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels on a Thanksgiving week edition on WEMU's Washtenaw United. Even though we have the holiday on our minds, Danni, this is a service provided year-round, as you pointed out. And it would appear the number of people who will require such assistance is only going to grow in the future. Did the pandemic create greater need?
Danni Murphy: The pandemic? Definitely. We saw a boost in growth when the pandemic started, but the growth has not slowed down since the pandemic has ended. What we're seeing is just population growth. So, that sector that's currently aging is just a huge section of our population. There's an estimate that, around 2040, the number of seniors living in poverty in Washtenaw County will have doubled.
David Fair: That doesn't sound like societal progress to me. In addition to meeting the daily or weekly needs of those who serve, is the organization doing work with others to address those root issues of the growing poverty levels?
Danni Murphy: Yeah. So, we work with the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. We work with Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels. We work with PACE and several of the senior centers in the area. And we definitely have a coalition of advocates that are trying to make sure and elevate that. We are facing an aging crisis in the area, and it's essential that people are aware of it and are acting to make sure that we're prepared for it.
David Fair: So, again, that projection is that the number of seniors living in poverty in Washtenaw County will double by the year 2040. Based on those poverty projections and your organizational forecasting, will Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels be able to grow to meet that 100% jump in assistance request?
Danni Murphy: Well, we are definitely working towards that. We are using our 50th anniversary to launch our Give More to Feed More initiative, which is a very ambitious fundraising initiative. But it is going to be essential that we meet these goals if we're going to be able to continue to serve the community without having to put any seniors on the waitlist or without having to cut any of our wraparound supports, like our PET program or our personal care pantry. The goal of Give More to Feed More is to raise enough capital to serve 1 million meals over the next five years.
David Fair: And would that mean that you are able to serve meals to all who requested it without having to waitlist anyone?
Danni Murphy: Based on our projections, if we can meet these goals, yes. We can feed everyone who needs it in the next five years, as well as continue our wraparound support.
David Fair: Washtenaw United continues on 89 one WEMU. And, again, we're talking with Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels development of marketing manager Danni Murphy. As mentioned, the organization in 2024 is celebrating its 50th year of community service. And, as you all prepare to meet the needs in the future, the New Year will bring some changes. Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels, as I understand it, is on the hunt for a new president and CEO, as Allison Snyder Forman is moving on after making such a positive difference when do you anticipate a new hire as you launched this amazing capital program?
Danni Murphy: Well, we are hoping to have someone in place by January. The search has already begun, and Alison has been very critical and helpful in making sure that the search is launched, and everyone is doing what they need to do, so that we can find the right person to fill her sizable shoes.
David Fair: And you mentioned the Give More Feed More program looks to feed 1 million people or provide 1 million meals over the next five years. What is that in terms of dollars? What are you going to have to raise to provide that with the escalating prices of food?
Danni Murphy: That amounts to raising about $6 million over what we have generally been raising.
David Fair: Which is?
Danni Murphy: So, last year we raised, I believe, it was around one-five.
David Fair: All right. So, it's a significant jump, but the anniversary should help. It will bring a lot more attention to the growing need. Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels wouldn't work at all without its dedicated list of volunteers. So, as you embark on a new capital campaign and as we approach Thanksgiving, I'd like to give a special shoutout to all who choose to serve. But will this New Year and this campaign bring a need for a greater number of volunteers?
Danni Murphy: Definitely. As the population grows, we have to continue to add routes in order to meet all of the needs of the seniors in our community. So, we will need more volunteers. We will need more staff. It's going to be a big time of growth over at YMOW. I don't think there will be a sector of the program that doesn't experience some growth.
David Fair: What do you look for in a volunteer? What does it take to become a volunteer?
Danni Murphy: Well, a good driving record.
David Fair: That's always helpful.
Danni Murphy: Yeah. Start there. And then, you know, just someone who has a kind face and a lot of empathy for the people that we're serving. It's that, like we said early on in the interview, that knock on the door and that smile is sometimes the only interaction our clients get in a day. So, making sure that we're putting people there that are going to make them feel comfortable and that are going to do what's best for them in any given circumstances.
David Fair: So, you are going to have a major capital campaign in 2024, and you're celebrating the 50th anniversary of the organization. Besides the campaign itself, how are you going to mark the occasion of five decades of community service?
Danni Murphy: Well, we have a lot of really great events coming up. Our popular Pie and a Pint Day will be back. And then, our Meals on Heels is going to get bigger and better. We're partnering with EMU and really trying to make this year's celebration of all 50 years of our service. So, we are reaching out to all of our previous volunteers, previous board members, previous staff members, and inviting them back to celebrate this milestone with us. We're also expanding and getting involved in some events downtown Ypsi that put our boots on the ground with some of the diverse population that we want to help celebrate. So, we hope to have a lemonade stand at this year's Juneteenth event, at Pride, and just really be out in the community and letting people know not only are we celebrating 50 years, but we need you guys to get involved.
David Fair: Well, Danni, thank you for the time today. And, again, a big thanks to all the staff and volunteers serving those for the holidays and throughout the year and moving forward. For that, we can all be thankful!
Danni Murphy: Yes, we are very thankful!
David Fair: That is Danni Murphy. She is development and marketing manager for Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels. For more information, visit our website at your convenience. You'll find it at WEMU dot org. Washtenaw United is produced in partnership with the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, and you hear it every Monday. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.
Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels a current recipient of the 2022 Community Impact Fund—an investment support of solutions that mitigate and disrupt the intersectional impacts of poverty, racism, and trauma, in Washtenaw County. The organization has received an award of $37,500 for unrestricted general operating support from July 1, 2022—June 30, 2025.
"The pandemic has meant a lot of pivoting in the way we provide services, the way we listen to and respond to client needs and has meant finding new ways to engage with volunteers and community. We are most proud over the last year of our work to expand aging in place services to add: home modification support with occupational services; expansion of chore and laundry support program; caregiver support services; expansion of our grocery services with new partnerships; and expand our services for pets that support our older adults to reduce social isolation and expanding our AI companionship program.” - Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels
WEMU has partnered with the United Way for Southeastern Michigan to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'
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