Lucy Carter, executive director of Friendship Trays, started her journey with the organization three decades ago as a volunteer delivering meals every other Friday with her two-year-old in tow. For Carter, providing food to others addressed a basic human need foundational to her core value of taking care of others. “If a society can’t feed its people, then we have no business entertaining ourselves,” she says unapologetically.
When she began volunteering, Carter was looking for a service activity she could do with her young child. It turned out Friendship Trays was not only a volunteer activity flexible enough to do with kids, it gave her a way to show her children the value of service.
Every other Friday, she would pick her kid up from preschool, stop at Chick-Fil-A and then drive to pick up meals from the distribution center to deliver. As her children grew, she became more invested and transitioned into various roles which eventually landed her as the executive director.
Friendship Trays is a meal delivery service which delivers healthy prepared meals to anyone who is unable to prepare a meal for themselves and has no one else to do so. Food is delivered to the elderly, those with disabilities, people going through medical treatments or others who fall into the criteria. Unlike other Meals on Wheels programs, Friendship Trays has no age restriction of who can receive meals.
Along with this difference, Friendship Trays’ Meals on Wheels program truly stands out in regards to their food preparation and their partnerships. Carter explains how initially they would serve only hot meals. “Now we use a blast chilling process to chill food right after it’s cooked and deliver the food chilled. This has dramatically changed the safety of the food. It looks better. It tastes better,” she says. And in collaboration with Friendship Gardens, they are able to serve even healthier meals than before. There’s a real intentionality in moving away from processed foods and using more locally fresh organic ingredients.
When asked about her favorite part of working with Friendship Trays, Carter exclaims “The relationships!” She explains how much joy is given and received by the connections being made when meals are delivered. “It’s not just meals-on-wheels, it’s the contact with people that is really important,” says Carter. The organization makes sure to get volunteer drivers in and out of distribution as quickly as possible so that the majority of the drivers’ time is spent with meal recipients. The interaction with another human is just as nourishing, if not more nourishing than the food, she notes.
The visits that come with the delivery service also bring a peace of mind to family members who count on Friendship Trays to check on their loved ones. Carter recalls how an elderly lady had fell at three in the morning and knew that she could do nothing but wait on her driver to bring her lunch. A more recent enrichment to their volunteer team has been adults with disabilities coming with their caregivers to help deliver meals. Carter notes how this addition has enriched their volunteer team.
Friendship Trays currently serves more than 700 people on a daily basis with about 500 meals being home delivered and 200 meals being served to adult and child daycares. With the influx of newcomers to Charlotte, her team has challenges ahead. Carter remains hopeful however and continue to do all that they can to positively affect the lives of those around them.
“It’s up to us to take care of others,” Carter says. "I believe the reason I have stayed and am so passionate about the mission of Friendship Trays is because it feeds me too.”
Learn more about Friendship Trays