Summer’s here – and so is shortage of volunteers for Meals on Wheels

As the organization suggests, this story took me on the road. I went on a run one day with the Meals on Wheels volunteers so I could interview them, and the recipients of the meals.

This is a great service for the elderly that may struggle with driving, cooking, making it to the grocery store on a regular basis, or all of the above.

Their challenges can be temporary, due to an illness, or they may choose to receive meals for a longer period of time.

The volunteer visits are also an opportunity for customers to socialize and build a connection, which can be very meaningful.

Main Line Meals on Wheels popularized the drive-by feeding just as Robin Williams’ character in the film, Mrs. Doubtfire, popularized drive-by fruiting.

Volunteers fuel this charitable vehicle, but, according to Main Line Meals on Wheels volunteer coordinator Maureen Eisele, this summer they are hard to come by.

“There is an ongoing need” for volunteers but the “summers are exceptionally difficult,” she said. There is “not an increased volume in recipients,” she explained, but a greater “need for volunteers because of summer vacations.”

Main Line Meals on Wheels executive director Marie O’Neill said the Paoli office currently delivers about 50 meals a week.[/pullquote] Paoli Memorial and Bryn Mawr hospital are providing the goods at a “minimal fee,” according to volunteer Ora Ehmann. For $29 a week, patrons receive a “brown bag lunch” and hot meal for dinner five days a week.

But volunteers are needed to mobilize the meals. Drivers, visitors – who deliver food to the door of the recipient – and pantry aids are in demand, Eisele said.

“People don’t realize that you don’t have to commit for life or a year,” she said. She encouraged volunteers to try it a few times to determine if it is rewarding.

She said that most volunteers work once a week, but that some work once or twice a month. Main Line Meals on Wheels executive director Marie O’Neill said the Paoli office currently delivers about 50 meals a week. Eisele said the Bryn Mawr location is serving up to 80.

O’Neill said the Paoli Hospital needs an additional 10 volunteer substitutes a week. Bryn Mawr Hospital, according to Eisele, typically has more than 20 substitute slots to fill.

Eisele estimated “the driver and the visitor should figure on a two-hour commitment” to complete their route. The pantry aide, she said, can expect to spend no more than an hour and a half in the kitchen. She said the volunteers gather to pack and distribute meals between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We spend a lot of time going back to our core volunteers,” she said.

Meals on Wheels is not to be confused with drive-through or fast food. Recipient Peter Mina or Ardmore described Main Line Meals on Wheels as “nutritious and convenient.”

“It’s not the Four Seasons,” he joked, “but they do a good job.” “It’s a wonderful, wonderful program,” said 167430715volunteer Connie Degerberg. “It’s nutritious and they don’t have to go shopping.”

Some Meals on Wheels volunteers, like Degerberg, dish out ample helpings of chat to recipients. “People assume we’re serving food,” Eisele said. “In many of these households, we are the only people they see in a day.”

The volunteer’s company, Ehmann said, is “just as valuable as the food.” Read more…

Reprinted with permission from Main Line Life.