Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda Meals on Wheels appears to have a glut of volunteers, with 120 mostly retirees offering their time to cook and deliver meals to the homes of more than 100 individuals several times a week.
But with snowbirds out of town for the winter months and several of it’s members getting sick in recent weeks, the organization is now struggling to meet the needs of its clients, many of whom count on the one or two meals they receive most days to maintain their independence.
Joy Welch, the group’s coordinator, is sending out a urgent call for those with a free hour or two once a week, to fill the void left by its regulars.
“It’s getting a little rough finding volunteers,” she said. “People here have either gone to the hospital for surgery or they’ve gone away. Some days are OK, other’s we have some empty spaces with nobody who is permanent, especially Tuesdays and Wednesday. There’s a real problem there and this has been an ongoing thing.”
Most of the the organization’s needs revolve around its volunteer drivers, who along with a required assistant whiz through their routes each day in one to two hours and generally serve 16 clients at a time. Many of those receiving the meals, who pay for the service, are in their 80s and 90s and cannot get to the store or cook for themselves.
“More than 90 percent are aged and we have some who are very aged,” Welch said. “We have at least one who is 100 and several are in their late 90s. Our demographics are changing. We used to have mostly 70-year-olds, then it changed to 80s and now we’re starting to get 90-year-olds. People are starting to live longer.”
Some of the volunteers have been with meals on wheels for 20 years or more, Welch said, and over time, many of the 9 drivers and 9 assistants who come each day have formed lasting friendships.