Meals on Wheels seeks volunteer drivers in Kent County

Mamie A. Warren Senior Center employees Faye Lindsey, right, of Clayton, right, Geneva Jackson of Middletown prepare dishes for Meals On Wheels Thursday morning at the Smyrna facility. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Mamie A. Warren Senior Center employees Faye Lindsey, right, of Clayton, right, Geneva Jackson of Middletown prepare dishes for Meals On Wheels Thursday morning at the Smyrna facility. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Help wanted.

Delivering lunch to 850 homebound senior citizens Monday through Friday throughout Kent County is an elaborate undertaking requiring ample coordination and workers to execute the plan.

The Meals on Wheels program needs more volunteers to keep rolling as it has since 1973.

Meals on Wheels volunteer Linda Sayers of Smyrna prepares meals for seniors with Mamie A. Warren Senior Center employee James Hill of Smyrna last week.

Meals on Wheels volunteer Linda Sayers of Smyrna prepares meals for seniors with Mamie A. Warren Senior Center employee James Hill of Smyrna last week.

Last week, leadership of the program based at the Modern Maturity Center made a plea for new volunteer drivers to deliver the meals.

The program delivered 500 meals three years ago and has seen a steady increase in service since then. Unfortunately, the volunteer force has not trended upward anywhere near that.

“We’re getting in a desperate situation again,” said Modern Maturity Center Director of Nutrition Services Jaime Sherman.

In especially dire straits is the Mamie Warren Senior Center in Smyrna, the drop-off point to meals delivered to northern Kent County residents. Ms. Sherman said volunteers are needed to cover two to three routes a day and there’s a 50-cent per mile reimbursement.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call the Modern Maturity Center at 734-1200 and ask for Ms. Sherman at Ext. 144 or Meals on Wheels Coordinator Trudie Clay at Ext. 119.

An application and background check are required and the process takes about a week. Training with current drivers is also available.

Routes are delivered from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in central and northern Kent County, with meals distributed from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Milford and Harrington.

Ideally, routes take from one to 2½ hours to complete, though currently stretched resources mean some routes have lengthened and may include up to 50 deliveries.

“That’s too many,” said Modern Maturity Center President/CEO Carolyn Fredericks.

Robert Lindsey of Clayton loads up a Meals on Wheels van with a cooler full of bagged cold meals Thursday morning.

Robert Lindsey of Clayton loads up a Meals on Wheels van with a cooler full of bagged cold meals Thursday morning.

Ms. Fredericks said approximately 80 to 90 volunteers currently drive various shifts; Ms. Sherman said numbers and availability is dwindling due to an aging driving crew with sickness issues and others getting jobs or going on vacations, among other factors.

Meals on Wheels is part of a “goal to help the senior population age in place, keeping them home as long as possible,” Ms. Sherman said.

And what do volunteers get out of the experience?

“Most say they love the feeling it gives them for helping someone,” Ms. Fredericks said.

“They’re truly somebody’s angel. They provide them with their nutritional needs and social contact every day.”

There’s comfort in a senior citizen receiving a visitor every weekday, Ms. Sherman said, pointing to a 103-year-old recipient in Harrington who “every time she would take the volunteer’s hand and say ‘I’m so grateful for this.’”

Volunteers have walked in on medical emergencies and requested well checks for the regular lunch eaters they haven’t seen in a while.

“We’re the eyes and ears on how they are doing,” Ms. Sherman said. “We may be the only people who see them each day.”

Including meals served on-site, approximately 1,600 lunches are provided Monday through Friday. Sealed and frozen weekend meals are available and distributed during the work week.

Meals are delivered from the Modern Maturity Center to the Mamie A. Warren Center in Smyrna, Peach Circle Apartments in Smyrna, Luther Towers in Dover, and the Milford and Harrington Senior Centers.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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