It’s safe to say that for most of us, it was quite difficult being stuck in our homes for months on end during the coronavirus shutdown. When we did venture out, it was for quick visits to the bank or grocery store or maybe to pick up takeout. Navigating this so-called “new normal” felt like anything but.
However, for people who are homebound, this new normal was nothing new at all.
The problem for the homebound was that the resources to which they became accustomed began to disappear, and they were left even more isolated than they were before.
Enter in Meals on Wheels of Greenville – a program that continued serving throughout the pandemic. Sure, they had to ensure the health and safety of clients, volunteers and staff, but the homebound people they serve continued to get the meals they relied on – that never changed.
Executive Director Catriona Carlisle explained that they had been delivering a hot meal each weekday to their constituents, but, with the pandemic, delivery was adjusted to Monday, Wednesday and Friday and instead of just one meal, they provided a hot meal and a frozen meal to ensure clients continued to receive nutritious food.
She said they implemented contactless delivery, meaning that volunteers delivered meals to clients in bags left at the front door or on a porch surface. They rang the doorbell or knocked, then stepped back at least 6 feet to observe proper social distancing. Carlisle said these small adjustments allowed Meals on Wheels to continue safely serving the homebound.
Additionally, a new meal pickup protocol for volunteers was implemented. Volunteers were no longer instructed to enter the building to pick up meals to deliver on their assigned route.
“We had the volunteers pull up, and we would have their route info ready for them, as well as the meals packaged to place in the car,” she said.
Carlisle continued, “Volunteers were also instructed to wear a mask and gloves, and the staff at Meals on Wheels were required to do the same.”
She said Meals on Wheels of Greenville saw a 30% increase in clients during the pandemic – and also an increase in the support provided by volunteers.
“Some of the Meals on Wheels volunteers did not feel comfortable continuing to serve during this time, but luckily we did gain new volunteers,” she pointed out.
She also reported that the outpouring of support and response to Meals on Wheels has been phenomenal: “People are so appreciative that we didn’t cease service during this time. They had fear at first and so did we, but we knew we had to continue to care for our clients.”
Carlisle said she was impressed with her staff and their ability to adapt and be flexible: “Our roles changed somewhat, but we are a part of a team and we came together as such.”
She reminded that it takes only $5 to provide a meal for a client and that right now, financial support is their biggest necessity. She also advised: “Check safely on your neighbors. People are isolated more now than ever before.”
Carlisle concluded that the coronavirus pandemic gave people a glimpse as to what it is like to be homebound.
“This is what the homebound in our community experience every day. It was a short-term inconvenience for the rest of us,” she concluded.
For more information on Meals on Wheels of Greenville and how you can help, visit www.mealsonwheelsgreenville.org.
By Theresa Stratford