How are organizations surviving this chaos and uncertainty? Everyone went from being excited about springtime and graduations to adapting to school closures, e-learning, restaurant shutdowns and grocery shortages. Company presidents are frantically regrouping.
I am reminded of the famous quote from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” And change is upon us all.
What is Meals on Wheels? Meals on Wheels Greenville provides a daily delivery meal service to homebound seniors throughout Greenville County. In addition, the volunteers provide human interaction — a friendly hello — which may be the only outside contact the person has that day.
How does it work? On any given weekday, 85 volunteer drivers come to the Meals on Wheels office on Oregon Street, pick up meals and a drivers’ list, and deliver 1,500 meals and smiles all over Greenville County. The system is so fine-tuned that the entire daily routine and pickup is over at noon. As a Meals on Wheels volunteer myself, I have taken my children on routes for years. I have met a wide variety of people, from an 85-year-old married senior couple who met while part of the Parker High School band (they both played the clarinet) to the client who was ending her battle with cancer and asked me to send her final Christmas cards.
I have also had a lot of laughs over the years. One client remarked, while looking at my son, how my “grandson was getting soooooo big.” Ahem… I think her cataracts had come back.
Since many of the homebound clients may be at risk, the delivery also provides a point of contact to ensure the senior’s safety. For instance, if a client does not answer the door, the delivery person reports back to Meals on Wheels, and a call protocol begins.
How has it changed? Meals on Wheels staff was concerned about potential health risks of the COVID-19 virus to its senior clients. Executive Director Catriona Carlisle said she awoke in the middle of the night and thought, “We need to do a drive-thru and minimize exposure, but we cannot stop.” Overnight, the staff regrouped, ordered $10,000 worth of trays to prepare frozen foods, made 5,000 meals in one day and were off on a new system. “This is the hardest week I have ever had at Meals on Wheels, but honestly I have seen the most kindness in volunteers,” Carlisle said.
Drivers no longer enter the building on Oregon Street but go through the drive-thru to pick up their route. They are given instructions about the “no contact” delivery system. Drivers are to knock on doors and step back at least 6 feet. Meals are hung on the door in a bag. Delivery has changed to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with a fresh and frozen meal for each delivery day. Gloves are now used.
How is Meals on Wheels Greenville supported? Several thousand make up the army of enthusiastic delivery people.
Most of the funds to run this organization come from individual and corporate support. Less than 1% comes from a federal grant for Senior Action meals. The two largest fundraisers are the Sweetheart Ball (held in February) and the Wheels for Meals cycling fundraiser, originally scheduled for April 25.
“The cycling community is so good to us,” Carlisle said.
The event is in process of being redesigned. More to come on the Wheels announcement.
For information on how to donate to Meals on Wheels, visit https://mealsonwheelsgreenville.org.