Volunteers needed to bring food and friendship to homebound seniors
GLENS FALLS, NY (NEWS10) – A friendly face and a hot meal can mean the world to anyone, and maybe no one more than homebound seniors without many other opportunities to see others people. Meals on Wheels and other community meal programs are making a difference for many seniors. Right now, there are often not enough hands on deck to deliver this fresh food and social visit to those who need it most.
It’s a problem felt for months for the Meals on Wheels program run by the Warren-Hamilton County Office for the Aging, which delivers meals to about 225 people. Delivery drivers are all volunteers – those who do more than just drop food off and speed up. But right now, the volunteers of past years find themselves preoccupied, helping their loved ones more than ever.
“A lot of them are looking after families,” said Andrea Hogan, Johnsburg city supervisor and Warren County program organizer. “Even though they just need to be available if a child is to be released into quarantine, they just can’t get involved.”
These volunteers are often grandparents themselves, and almost always retirees. Childcare is just one of the many reasons Hogan heard ‘no’ from previous volunteers, but as COVID-19 continues to change the lives of these volunteers and their own adult children, this remains the problem. The most important.
“I know at least one person whose child has already been released three times in quarantine due to exposures,” Hogan said.
The Bi-County Meal Program has been looking for new volunteers for its meal delivery and site programs since the end of the summer. Seniors can visit designated eating places in both counties for fresh food a few days a week, a number kept low by the county’s COVID safety councils.
This means fewer opportunities to get help from meals, which only adds to the demand for drivers who can bring food directly to homes. Currently, demand is highest in Queensbury and Glens Falls. There are only enough delivery drivers to deliver frozen meals to residents two days a week; Monday and Wednesday, to be used Tuesday and Thursday.
The goal is to start running meals again five days a week. Hogan said consistency seems to be a big deal, and some recipients don’t eat the meals brought to them if they only come once every two or three days.
“Because we know this about our elders,” Hogan said. “They have to be checked five days a week.”
The job, for those who decide to take it, consists of a route of around 2 hours, having meals in one of the few food centers and making deliveries. But it is also about asking the confined recipients how they are. Sometimes those who receive the meals cannot open the door themselves, or even need a willing and able volunteer to put a meal in their refrigerator themselves.
This is all part of the care of those who do not have constant caregivers; especially when the Thanksgiving season makes some people yearn for a human connection even more. Hogan says it’s not uncommon for volunteers and seniors to bond over visits.
“They become friends. In a lot of cases, you stick around and chat for a minute, and you get a good idea of who they are.
Anyone interested in becoming a meal delivery driver in Glens Falls or Queensbury can contact the Warren-Hamilton counties office at (518) 824-8820. The program is no longer looking for cooks, but will accept applications if they come forward. Hogan is hopeful that anyone considering volunteering their time will understand how good time can really be.
“I can’t think of a bigger, more fulfilling way to spend a few hours of your week.”