GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A friendly face and a hot meal can mean the world to anyone, and perhaps nobody more so than homebound seniors without many other opportunities to see other people.
Meals on Wheels and other community meal programs make a difference for many seniors. Right now, there often aren’t enough hands on deck to deliver that fresh food and a social visit to the ones who need them most.
That’s a problem felt for months for the Meals on Wheels program run by the Warren-Hamilton Counties Office for the Aging, which operates meal delivery to around 225 people. The delivery drivers are all volunteers – ones who do a lot more than just drop off some food and speed off. But right now, the volunteers from years past find themselves preoccupied, giving more help than ever to the ones closest to them.
“Many of them are taking care of families,” said Andrea Hogan, Johnsburg Town Supervisor and an organizer of the Warren County side of the program. “Even if they just need to be available should a kid need to go out on quarantine, they just can’t commit themselves anymore.”
Those volunteers are often grandparents themselves, and almost always retirees. Child care is just one of a variety of reasons Hogan has heard “no” from previous volunteers, but as COVID-19 continues to change the lives of those volunteers and their own adult children, it remains the most prominent issue.
“I know at least one person whose kid has already been out three times on quarantine because of exposures,” Hogan said.
The bi-county meal program has been seeking new volunteers for both its delivery and meal site programs since late summer. Seniors can visit designated meal locations in both counties for fresh food a couple of days a week, a number kept low by county COVID safety advice.
That means fewer opportunities to get the help that the meals provide, which only adds to the demand for drivers who can bring food directly to doorsteps. Right now, demand is highest in Queensbury and Glens Falls. There are only enough delivery drivers to get frozen meals to residents two days a week; Monday and Wednesday, to be used Tuesday and Thursday.
The goal is to get back to running meals five days a week. Hogan said that consistency seems to be a deciding factor, and some recipients don’t eat the meals they’re brought if they’re only coming once every two or three days.
“Because we know this about our seniors,” Hogan said. “They need to be checked up on five days a week.”
The work, for those who decide to take it, consists of a roughly 2-hour route, taking meals from one of a few meal centers and making deliveries. But it’s also about asking the homebound recipients how they are. Sometimes those receiving meals can’t open the door themselves or even need a volunteer willing and able to put a meal in their fridge themselves.
It’s all part of caring for those who don’t have constant caregivers; especially when the Thanksgiving season makes some yearn even more so for a human connection. Hogan says it’s not uncommon for volunteers and seniors to bond over visits.
“They become friends. In a lot of cases, you stay and you chat for a minute, and you get a good sense of who they are.”
Anyone interested in becoming a meal delivery person in Glens Falls or Queensbury can contact the Warren-Hamilton Counties office at (518) 824-8820. The program is not currently seeking any more cooks but will accept applications if they come in. Hogan hopes that anyone considering donating their time understands how much good that time can really do.
“I can’t think of a more important, more fulfilling way to spend a couple of hours of your week.”