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SCORE Awards: East Cooper Meals on Wheels

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (MainStreet) -- East Cooper Meals on Wheels' President and CEO Pat Walker may be running a nonprofit organization, but the challenges as the economy remains sluggish are like any facing for-profit small business and their leaders.

East Cooper Meals on Wheels began as a grassroots effort in 1985 to make sure senior citizens in the community had at least one good meal a day, but in the 26 years of operation the mission has grown to include total nutrition for seniors and other homebound people who cannot get or pay for their own meals, Walker says.

East Cooper Meals on Wheels President and CEO Pat Walker oversees eight paid employees and a volunteer staff of roughly 285.

The organization has eight paid employees and a volunteer staff of roughly 285.

Walker, a retired teacher, began as a volunteer with East Cooper Meals on Wheels, but her passion for its mission grew over time. She became its CEO in 2006.

"I was inspired," Walker says. "I realized the importance of the work and providing seniors with food, but also I was taken by the generosity of other people and their willingness to work together."

As East Cooper Meals on Wheels won the 2011 SCORE award for Outstanding Socially Progressive Small Business, Walker spoke with TheStreet on what it's like to work for the nonprofit organization.

How does a nonprofit organization run like a small business?

Walker: If you really are meeting the goals of a mission then you have to have a business behind the mission, because you still have to have a revenue source, you still have to advertise, you're still providing a service to customers just like a small business would and you're creating relationships and partnerships along the way. That lines right up with business, and that is one reason why we engaged SCORE. We wanted to make sure we were using best business practices so that we could meet those stated goals and stated objectives of our mission. As much as we were growing we couldn't do that simply out of good will.

We have challenges. We have personnel challenges, food procurement challenges, delivery challenges, quality control, budgeting -- all of the same challenges [as a for-profit business].

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