Meals For Elderly needs a big lift
Volunteer drivers sought to deliver food
By Matthew Waller
Thursday, August 25, 2011
SAN ANGELO, Texas — Pete Espinosa walks out with a cane in hand when he meets the Meals For The Elderly volunteer who delivers his hot lunch.
He talks about the stack of Meals For The Elderly containers on his microwave, how he first started with the program and how he began living on Social Security.
“I like to get visitors,” said Espinosa, who lives alone. “It gets lonely.”
Loneliness and hunger are two elements in the life of many elderly homebound people in San Angelo that Meals For The Elderly helps keep at bay, but the organization faces a daunting void in its volunteer troops and has put out an emergency request for help.
At least 35 routes need drivers from Sept. 7 through Sept. 16, Meals For The Elderly staff said.
“We have a pretty large gap,” said Becca Lambert, the marketing and event director of Meals For The Elderly.
The need arose after a church wasn’t able to provide as much volunteer assistance as it had in the past. The church still will provide volunteers for the last two weeks in September, Lambert said.
“The church has been with us since the beginning,” Lambert said. “Everybody is struggling these days. They just don’t have the manpower to do it. They’re trying to do their best for us.”
Meals For The Elderly staff declined to name the church that has been unable to muster volunteers.
Meals For The Elderly is in a rare situation with the shortage of meal providers, Lambert said. Generally, the summer months present more need, and the need decreases in the fall as people return to normal schedules, she said.
“This is probably something that happens once or twice a year,” Lambert said. “We’re always needing drivers, but our supporters can typically help us fill those gaps.”
Substitute drivers are generally on hand when there is a daily scheduling conflict, she said.
Each route takes about an hour and a half to complete, and volunteers would be asked to show up between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on each day they have a route.
Anyone interested in helping can contact Meals For The Elderly at 325-655-9200.
Volunteer drivers provide their own vehicles and gasoline, Lambert said, and they typically sign up for one or two routes. They would not need to drive for an entire week, Lambert said.
“You get a lot more from volunteering than even the client,” Lambert said. “One gentleman says, ‘Oh, don’t leave.’ They’ll say, ‘You’re the only person I saw today.’ It’s a huge sense of gratification that you’ve impacted someone’s life.”
Lois Calvert, a volunteer and retiree, agreed that the experience of volunteering is largely about investing in the person.
“It isn’t just the food,” Calvert said.
Lois Calvert and her husband, Jim Calvert, have been filling in for volunteers who are away, she said.
Meals For The Elderly is a nonprofit organization that delivers about 600 meals per day at the cost of about $3 a meal, a cost covered by the organization.
The organization has gone without government funding since 1974. Meals For The Elderly uses about 2,100 volunteers, Lambert said.
Jim Calvert said the bottom line is service to people in need.
“These people really need our help and we’re helping them, and that is the key,” he said.