Community members looking to help out their neighbors and friends get enough food through Meals on Wheels are encouraged to volunteer with the program.
The program provides at least one meal a day Monday to Friday for clients, sometimes without cost. The program can also provide a week’s worth of frozen meals, or additional meals for dinner, depending on the situation, said LifeCare Alliance representative Pauli Tice. Tice spoke to some community individuals at an informational session Thursday about the program.
LifeCare Alliance took over the Meals on Wheels program in Champaign and Logan counties in 2014, when Tri-County Community Action Commission Inc. ceased offering services. LifeCare Alliance is based out of Franklin County, and serves Franklin, Madison, Marion, Champaign and Logan counties currently.
The group is looking for volunteer drivers in each location. Drivers do not have to deliver every day; routes are available for anytime between daily deliveries or less frequently, Tice said. Volunteers must apply, and go through a one-hour training provided by LifeCare Alliance. Training will be done face-to-face, though the volunteer won’t have to drive to Columbus to do it.
Since LifeCare Alliance started delivering in Champaign and Logan counties, it has delivered over 16,000 meals to over 143 clients, and the client list is growing. The daily meal is an important social tie for the clients, Tice said.
Meals need to be delivered between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. during the week, Tice said. Meals are prepared at the agency’s kitchens in Columbus, then packaged and dropped off at various local drop-offs for volunteer drivers. The drivers then take the meals to clients on their routes.
“Over 45 percent of our home-delivered meal clients through Meals on Wheels say the volunteer that comes into the home may be the only person they see for the day,” she said. “It is important to our clients. These services help them stay in their homes, and to do it safely.”
In the past, Meals on Wheels volunteers have noticed a problem and called emergency personnel, then called the family to inform them. The program can be an important safety feature for home-bound individuals, Tice said.
Clients are generally over age 60, though if a person has a medical issue that prevents them from getting out much, they may qualify for meals. The cost for the program depends on the ability of the client to pay; it can be a sliding scale, or not cost the client depending on their individual financial situation, Tice said.
LifeCare Alliance is also expanding its services by providing community luncheons or “congregant meals” at various locations. In Urbana, those locations such as the Champaign County Senior Center. The organization added a couple of sites that include the Southpoint Village Apartments, the Messiah Lutheran Church, and soon the St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Those meals, though they don’t occur every day, are for anyone over age 60 to come in and have a meal, with a suggested donation of $1.50 for a meal. Attendees are encouraged to call and say they are coming, so the agency prepares enough meals.
“It offers them a chance to get out of their homes,” Tice said. “Sometimes a person needs a reason to get dressed.”
Rosewood resident Rita Carr said she was thinking about becoming a volunteer driver, noting that she likes to be helpful.
“I think I need to be useful,” she said. “I want to help others.”
Carr said she is a retired widow, who lost her mother and aunt around the same time. She had previously helped them out, and now she wants to provide assistance somewhere else. She also said she may bring information to her church and see if others wanted to volunteer.
Community groups can volunteer for routes. Tice said some groups and businesses volunteer for a route or two, and rotate between members or employees who deliver them.
For more information on becoming a client of the program, call (888) 656-6831. For more information about volunteering to drive a meal route or serving as a congregant meal site, contact Tice at (614) 437-2859 or email@example.com. For more information about LifeCare Alliance, visit www.lifecarealliance.org.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.