Meals on Wheels adjust to keep up with delivery times despite reduced volunteer numbers – San Bernardino Sun

When Charlotte Apo, 84, hears a knock on her door around lunchtime every Wednesday, she knows a familiar face is on the other side.

“The Meal on Wheels is here,” Barbara Wiggins exclaimed, holding a brown bag filled with pork loin and corn. “We got your favorite coconut rice. Hot and ready for you. ”

The steel door of the La Verne mobile park house flew open to reveal Apo’s grinning face. She offered Wiggins, 60, a seat inside which was graciously turned down. There were 15 more deliveries that afternoon, Wiggins noted.

“Always a good time to see you, Miss Apo,” said Wiggins, checking her name in the delivery log. “I’ll see you next week as usual.”

As president of La Verne/San Dimas Meals on Wheels for 18 years, Wiggins has forged countless relationships with clients like Apo, becoming a welcome presence for those who sometimes live alone. . It’s a role she wouldn’t trade for the world, says Wiggins.

But I like many non-profit organizations, Wiggin’s small volunteer-run organization changed by Coronavirus Disease. A combination of factors – decade-high inflation, labor shortages, thin budgets – has affected day-to-day operations, she said.

The group, along with other nearby Meals on Wheels chapters, had to adjust as volunteers, especially delivery drivers, became a hot commodity.

Once outfitted with a roster of about 75 volunteers, says Wiggins, Meals on Wheels in La Verne/San Dimas now have just under 50 helpers. Many of those leaving are longtime delivery drivers, while others are self-sufficient volunteer couples.

The drop in volunteers has forced Wiggins and others to get on with their lives as meal delivery is desperately needed as elderly and vulnerable groups choose to stay indoors due to the pandemic.

What caused the drop in the number of people available? Christine Edwards, vice president of La Verne/San Dimas Meals On Wheels, said the reasons were different but all attributed to the pandemic. A large portion of the organization’s volunteer force is high-risk people, she said, prompting many of them to leave.

Replacing those volunteers has proven to be a significant challenge.

“So when COVID hit, I mean, we had half of the volunteers quit and they never came back,” Edwards said. “We haven’t been the same since, but someone has to deliver these meals, right?”

Meals on Wheels volunteer Barbara Wiggins packs meals for delivery in La Verne on Wednesday, December 8, 2021. La Verne / San Dimas Meals on Wheels reported a drop in volunteers in recent months, which officials blame on the pandemic. Previously, the team had an average of about 100 clients before the pandemic, now that number is 70. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

‘People still want their food’

The group has been serving the cities of La Verne and San Dimas since 2003, providing nutritious meals five days a week to people who live alone, cannot cook, or have dietary restrictions. Meals are prepared hot and fresh at Hillcrest Kitchens in La Verne with customers paying $5 a plate.

In recent weeks, there have been five routes with about 70 meals provided each day, down from 100 before the pandemic, according to organizers. But even with meals down, getting them out to everyone isn’t easier.

What was once a regular hour of volunteer time can now stretch to two or three hours due to a lack of drivers and ready hands to pack food. People also don’t want to carpool with strangers due to concerns about COVID-19, which makes the delivery process longer, Edwards said.

“We had to change most of our operations. Now we pack food outside and we rely on fewer and fewer people,” Edwards said, noting that volunteers have been complaining of illness in recent months. “It’s hard but people still want their food.” Meals on Wheels adjust to keep up with delivery times despite reduced volunteer numbers – San Bernardino Sun

Curtis Crabtree

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