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Meals on Wheels needs drivers

Dispatched from the Sandy Community/Senior Center, drivers bring food to people at risk


by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - Charlie Phillips and his wife, Linda (not pictured), both of Boring, have been delivering meals to shut-ins from the Sandy Community/Senior Center for a number of years. More drivers are needed.The name tells what the program is all about, and who hasn’t heard of the Meals on Wheels program?

This is how a community takes care of its neighbors. Volunteers transport meals from a community center to the homes of people who are described as “at nutritional risk.”

But the area’s supply of volunteer drivers is at a low ebb. More drivers are needed now, said volunteer dispatcher Grace Reich, who is in her 90s and has been dispatching Meals on Wheels drivers for nearly three decades.

The meals are not only for low-income families. The meals are for people who do not have available adequate and proper food.

“Qualification is based on nutritional risk, not economic need,” said Nancy Ream Enabnit, Sandy’s community services director. “Priority is given to low-income people over the age of 60. There is a suggested donation of $2.50 per meal; however, no one is denied service based on ability to pay.”

The meals are similar to the food offered in many community centers at midday, and are delivered to homes because the recipient is likely unable to travel to the community center.

Meal costs are subsidized through funding from the city of Sandy, Clackamas County, Sandy Golden Age Club, Clackamas County Meals on Wheels, fundraisers and individual donations.

More than a meal

Enabnit says the program provides more than a meal. Those receiving meals also have someone checking in to determine that everything is OK.

People who are unable to travel to a community center to enjoy a meal might also be vulnerable because of a health condition, and they might be living alone. Having someone check in once a day provides an insurance factor in case they need immediate medical or other types of assistance.

The Meals on Wheels program “helps individuals remain at home longer (instead of being institutionalized); eases the burden on family caregivers; and offers a daily welfare check,” Enabnit said.

Easing the burden on family caregivers is a great way to support a community, Enabnit said, because it allows the elder to stay in the home longer and eases the minds of younger family members.

“For those families whose caregivers must go to work,” she said, “this program gives them reassurance, knowing someone is bringing them a meal and checking in on them midday.”

Drivers get to know the people they are serving so well, they can recognize anything unusual that might indicate something is wrong, Enabnit said.

“Drivers tell us if they see or hear anything unexpected,” she said, “and we can then check in with their family.”

You can volunteer

In recent dispatching sessions, Reich has come up short of volunteers. This requires her to ask volunteers to make extra trips.

The area covered includes the Oregon Trail School District plus Damascus and some of the Gresham-Barlow district, with the exception of the area east of Alder Creek, which is covered by the Hoodland Senior Center.

Reich and the volunteers would prefer to increase the number of drivers. Enabnit agrees, stating that the volunteers are the people who guarantee the program will continue to succeed.

“The key to continuing this program into the future,” she said, “is having a large number of willing volunteers to call upon when the need increases.”

Sandy sends drivers out on four routes each day — each between 15 and 30 miles. That translates to a minimum of 832 volunteer days per year.

Anyone who has a couple of hours to volunteer in the late morning should contact Reich or Enabnit. The need is great.

For more information, call Reich at 503-668-6590, or reach Enabnit at 503-668-5569 or enenabnit@ci.sandy.or.us.

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