Meals on Wheels seeks drivers to buckle up and deliver lunches to the elderly in Summit County
Mountainland Association of Governments Aging and Family Services needs some volunteers to take a drive and deliver Meals on Wheels lunches to the elderly in Summit County.
Meals on Wheels, a government-funded, food-service program for the elderly homebound, is run locally by Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG), and covers Summit, Utah and Wasatch counties, said Stephanie Benson, public relations coordinator.
“We are serving 800 meals a day in Utah, Wasatch and Summit County, and deliver around 80 meals a day in Summit County,” Benson said. “It’s a lot of area, and it takes a small army to get it done. We currently have one driver, and just one more driver would make a difference.”
The number of people who have registered for lunches has increased 42% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, because more more people are staying at home to avoid exposure to the coronavirus, she said.
“We have delivered 9,507 meals from January to last Thursday, compared to last year’s deliveries of 6,672,” she said. “The need has grown, and we have been fortunate so far to be able to accommodate that need and be there for those who rely on us. But resources are limited, so we rely on the community, especially volunteers to help this program continue.”
Potential volunteers must be at least 18 years old, own a car and pass a background check, according to Benson.
“We cover the cost of the background check once we get an application,” she said.
Applications can be submitted by visiting mountainland.org/volunteer.
“Jimmy Golding, our wonderful volunteer coordinator, will go through the background check and then give applicants a call to confirm their availability to get the ball rolling,” Benson said. Volunteers go through a simple training process after they are approved, she said.
“Delivering is pretty simple, but it’s nice to have someone show you the ropes the first time and introduce you to the people,” Benson said. “After that, They’re good to go.”
Volunteers will be assigned a route that includes between eight to 10 seniors, Benson said.
“It takes about an hour to make the deliveries,” she said. “We have a catchphrase that says, ‘You get to donate your lunch break to make a difference.’”
Volunteers will be assigned the same day each week, according to Benson.
“We deliver Monday through Friday, and that requires five volunteers for the weekdays and a couple of substitutes on the side,” she said. “If we could have our dream, we would love to double up on routes, and have 15 volunteers.”
Volunteers pick up the meals at the Christian Center of Park City and make deliveries between noon and 2 p.m., Benson said.
“The Christian Center has been a willing and wonderful partner with us for this effort,” she said.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, all volunteers are required to wear masks and follow other guidelines, Benson said.
“Typically we would go into homes to drop off the meals and have a little contact with the person,” she said. “At this point we ask volunteers to hang the meals on the front door handle and wave when the person comes to the door. That way we can have a little connection with a safe distance. We serve the most vulnerable population, and keeping them safe is important to us on many levels.”
The deliveries provide the elderly population more than lunches, Benson said.
“It’s also about letting them know someone is looking out for them, because we care so deeply about the people we serve, especially those who live in rural communities,” she said. “If our volunteers notice something is off or wrong with the people they deliver to, they can call and get help. It’s an extra layer of security and support that is vital for the peace of mind of family members and caregivers.”
The program also shows the elderly that they are appreciated. Benson said.
“Especially during this time I often feel like our seniors are forgotten once they become homebound, and this program connects them with others and the fabric of our vibrant community,” she said. “It’s important to have this cross-generational acceptance to show how much we need each other, and how much we benefit from knowing each other.”
Benson, who served as Mountainland Association of Governments’ volunteer coordinator before she became public relations coordinator, has seen the positive effects of Meals on Wheels deliveries on the volunteers.
“Before COVID, parents will take their kids on the routes to get them involved and connected with the older generation,” she said. “Because of that I’ve had college students who want to volunteer or need volunteer hours tell me they came to us because they used to volunteer for us with their parents. And I love seeing that come full circle.”
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