Meals on Wheels counting on community to keep serving seniors through pandemic

Meals on Wheels counting on community to keep serving seniors through pandemic

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - This coronavirus pandemic is affecting nearly every corner of the community. It has hit senior citizens especially hard.

The Montgomery Area Council on Aging (MACOA) operates the area’s Meals on Wheels program. Since the pandemic began, the program has not been able to serve hot meals.

Still determined to make sure that every one of the more than 400 senior citizen clients is fed, it began delivering “shelf-stable” meals and supplemental food items.

“We are also supplementing with a bag of produce at fresh fruit and canned goods and bread or anything that has been donated by our community,” explained MACOA’s Executive Director Donna Marietta “We have had a great response from churches, individuals, clubs, and just anyone who’s been interested in providing that food that we can bag up each time we go out and supplement the shelf-stable meals.”

This change in meals wasn't cheap.

"The shelf-stable meals cost us almost double what our hot meals cost us," said Pam Goodwin, Director of Senior Services for MACOA.

To make matters worse, MACOA had to postpone its annual Golf Classic, which is a major fundraiser, because of the pandemic and social distancing.

"Like many nonprofits, a very large portion of our revenue is generated from special events or from donations," Marietta said." So we have had, in fact our 19th annual golf classic was planned for May. Of course that had to be canceled, and that Revenue was a great loss to us so we have been reaching out to the community and asking them to not forget about our seniors, to remember MACOA when they select a nonprofit to donate to. "

The Meals on Wheels program has also been forced to make adjustments in its volunteer delivery process.

“Limiting the number of people who are able to come into our facility, we have had to go to drive-by pickups," Goodwin described. “Which means we schedule a certain time for volunteers to show up to pick up the food, and then they deliver it to the clients using a modified schedule, which is calling to let them know that they are there, placing the box and the supplemental bag on their porch, making sure that it’s picked up before they drive away,”

So, while they are still seeing clients and talking to them, there is not as much one to one contact.

“We will be glad when things can go back to normal and we can get a little more socialization with our clients, which is extremely important to help battle depression and isolation of our clients," Goodwin said.

Goodwin added that MACOA has more than its Meals on Wheels Program its still trying to support through this pandemic, and hundreds more it's trying to feed.

“In addition to the 400 meals on wheels clients that normally get hot meals, we also have a waitlist of other 300 people we help people with frozen meals, so we’ve been able to keep our frozen meals program going by giving a two weeks supply at a time. That would not be possible without the multiple partners that we’ve had for many years that had continue to cook that food for us and package it and freeze it so that we can hand out to about 125 clients here at our Montgomery location, and every two weeks we also do another 15 out at Pike Road.”

While these changes are temporary, MACOA is making some other adjustments as Alabama moves forward with reopening during this pandemic.

“We hope in June to start back on our hot meal delivery,” said Marietta. “So we will be calling all of the volunteers that have been helping over the years."

Marietta says they have around 1200 volunteers, that in a normal time, are part of the meals on wheels volunteer program. They expect they will be calling them to see if they are willing to come back.

“So I hope when we make that call, they will say yes, because we are putting into place so many protocols to not only keep them safe, our volunteers safe, our clients safe, and our staff to be safe, and we will follow those protocols, and I think that will ensure that we are doing everything we possibly can to continue our mission and our work through the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to keep everyone involved as safe as we can,” Marietta added.

Learn more about MACOA’s Meals on Wheels program, how to apply and volunteer.

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