PAWTUCKET – Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island, which has continued to deliver even more meals to homebound seniors throughout the pandemic, is looking for volunteers from Pawtucket to help with the program.
The nonprofit has an immediate need for five volunteers in Pawtucket to deliver meals on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, according to Executive Director Meg Grady.
In addition to delivering nutritional food to older adults and other populations who need help maintaining their independence, Grady said the visits also provide life-saving safety checks and opportunities for socialization.
“Delivering Meals on Wheels is an incredible experience for volunteers as well,” she told The Breeze, adding that volunteers can feel like they’re making a difference, make sure their neighbors are safe, and “develop special friendships in the process.”
Throughout the pandemic, Grady said, Meals on Wheels had a strong partnership with the Pawtucket and Central Falls EMAs, who helped distribute COVID-response meals to older adults who were already homebound or homebound because of the virus. “Our volunteers … became delivery heroes for our seniors,” she said, as they were sometimes the only person these seniors were seeing and their only outlet for socialization.
When partners such as RIPTA and AAA Northeast saw declines in their service needs, they allowed some of their employees to stay employed by delivering meals in their company vehicles, Grady said. “Many routes in Pawtucket were delivered by RIPTA volunteers,” she said, adding that now that RIPTA routes are filling up again, Meals on Wheels has a need for more volunteer drivers.
During the pandemic, the organization not only served its usual 315,000 meals throughout the state, it delivered an additional 275,000 COVID-19-response meals.
In a typical day, 1,200 meals are delivered across R.I. but at the height of the pandemic, 4,000 meals were delivered. Over the past few months there has been a 25 percent increase in need, and approximately 1,500 meals are being delivered, she said.
“We’re very proud we operated without disruption during COVID-19,” Grady said. Volunteers should be friendly, outgoing, and reliable, Grady said, and they are required to use their own vehicle to deliver meals. Experience with socializing or working with older adults is preferred but not required.
If given a route, a volunteer will pick up meals at the organization’s headquarters in Providence and deliver them to about 15 to 20 clients in Pawtucket, which takes about 90 minutes to two hours, she said.
“We ask people to commit to one day a week,” she said. Volunteers range from college students to retirees and everyone in between. “No volunteer is the same,” she said. “We really couldn’t do it without them.”
Meals on Wheels also has an open route in North Providence, one in Johnston, and many in Providence to fill. Because needs are always changing, anyone who has interest in delivering meals can contact the organization.
Grady said the organization is following the delta variant as well as guidelines from the state’s Department of Health and the CDC and plans to continue to operate safely without disruption to services.
People can also help by making a donation to Meals on Wheels. The cost of one meal is $9.61, Grady said.
For more information, a volunteer application, or to donate, visit www.rimeals.org .