FPC volunteers deliver Meals on Wheels (MOW)
When it came time for First Presbyterian Church volunteers to deliver Meals on Wheels in late August, coordinator Ben Nichols had a list of just over 40 qualified volunteers to help.
That might sound like an adequate number, but it wasn’t. He had to call one of the other nine churches that rotate with FPC to drum up people to fill six spots during the week. Pastor Bobby chose to ride along one day with the Curries to get a feel for what volunteers experience.
“There is an urgent need for more volunteers from our church,” Ben said. “Over the past few months, the Meals on Wheels program here in Williamson and Burnet counties has added clients that now total about 250, and the number of routes has increased from 12 to 14 over the past year in Georgetown. Part of that is probably due to the COVID pandemic.” Another Sun City route was added last year, and in the last two months one was added in the Texas Traditions and Cedar Breaks area at Lake Georgetown.
If you do the math, 14 routes times five days equals 70 spots to be filled by two people each during the week. The typical route might have 15 to 16 clients, or stops, but one has 22. Some volunteers cover all five days while others may deliver fewer days.
Ben hopes to have new recruits before FPC is due to deliver meals October 25-29. Our church delivers every ninth week.
“Volunteering is a blessing. It’s not a chore to provide this service as part of our church’s mission to support Meals on Wheels. I guarantee you will meet a bunch of nice, grateful folks,” Ben said.
Tom Currie helps Ben coordinate MOW. Tom and Peggy are both volunteers. And Donna Nichols helps her husband as a volunteer.
Ben has been coordinator for three years, taking over from Dave and Alison Harrison, who were also drivers/volunteers.
Generally, volunteers work in pairs since they must manage a large insulated bag with the sealed hot meals and a cooler containing milk, fruit salad or other cold items such as cheese and other fixings for tacos. Sometimes, an experienced, capable volunteer/driver might go it alone on a route. That happened in August. For that week’s rotation, Ben also scheduled not only a father and son from the Jewish synagogue but also his son, Jason, and daughter-in-law, Sarah, from Austin.
Meals are delivered year-round five days a week to people who cannot cook for themselves, Ben said. They are over the age of 60 and are often homebound or disabled. Meal recipients in a seniors-only complex have increased from six to 17 in recent weeks.
Kelsey Ward, MOW site director at the Madella Hilliard Senior Center in Georgetown, takes applications for the program. She adds the eligible clients to the route books that volunteers pick up to start their deliveries.
Meal recipients are asked to make a monthly “cost share” contribution of $3 per meal if they are able. No one is turned away. Donations to MOW and fundraisers help to cover the cost of the program that is not funded by federal or state dollars. Recipients of meals send their checks to Kelsey or give the volunteer an envelope to deliver to her.
Meals are prepared by Kelsey’s staff at the senior center, which also prepares 150 meals daily for Head Start in Georgetown and 20 or more meals daily for center clients to pick up since the center is not presently serving congregate meals. And each Monday, meals (one hot and four frozen) are delivered by staff to about 30 MOW clients in Jarrell, Florence, Weir, Granger and other areas of east Georgetown. Kelsey takes a route and delivers meals each week to stay in touch with the clients.
Volunteers arrive at the senior center around 10 a.m. and check their bags and coolers to be sure everything is there for recipients on their route. Meal deliveries cannot start until 10:30.
“Volunteering for MOW is about a two-hour commitment each day,” Ben said. “Although we have couples who sign up to deliver together, we also have individuals who volunteer and are paired with someone. You don’t have to sign up for all five days. Some volunteers commit to fewer than five days because of their schedule. We will take whatever time a volunteer can give us.”
When a new volunteer signs on, there is a training period when he or she goes with a seasoned volunteer to learn the routine. To volunteer, you must complete a volunteer application for Meals on Wheels. Once you complete it, you can give it to Ben, who will get it to Kelsey. It takes just a few days to be approved. He encourages prospective volunteers to complete the application in plenty of time for October deliveries.
Ben’s and Tom’s preparations for FPC’s week of deliveries begin the Saturday and Sunday before the week of service when they arrive at both HEB stores in Georgetown and fill up their vehicles with some 100 loaves of bread and plenty of leftover pies, cakes, donuts and other sweets. These are delivered to clients early in the week, along with their meals.