I want to begin by thanking all of you for your tremendous support over the last 10 days. So many of you have volunteered to take extra routes and called offering support and funding. It’s been heartwarming to see how our community has come together during this national crisis.
As we navigate our way through this pandemic in the coming weeks, I want to provide you with a weekly update of what’s happening at Meals on Wheels People and what we are doing to not only ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers and clients, but how we are continuing to provide meals our most vulnerable citizens.
We have successfully transitioned all of our regular dining center participants to home-delivered meals as needed and staff are conducting wellness calls to those diners who chose not to receive meals. The “no contact” meal delivery system, while not ideal, has been working well. The number of new people registering for Meals on Wheels service is skyrocketing. Many older citizens, who may never have considered our service before, are now confined to their homes and are looking to us to provide basic nutrition. While we traditionally register about 300 new participants per month, we have seen as many as 150 per day sign up over the past week.
In addition, we have been approached by a number of other organizations to provide meals to their residents. These include senior and disabled housing units, homeless shelters and other organizations that traditionally serve a senior and disabled population that is now sheltering in place. We have been able to keep up with the demand thus far by adding additional staff in our Central Kitchen. Our volunteer services department has also been overwhelmed with new volunteers. As teachers and restaurant workers are losing their jobs, they are looking for ways to give back to the community. More than 500 individuals registered to deliver meals in less than 72 hours. This is an unprecedented response. As many of our regular volunteers are age 70 and older, we anticipate more and more will choose to shelter in place and we are processing new volunteers as fast as possible to take their place.
I have been working with a number of our funders to secure additional funding to cover the additional costs we are incurring for both food and staff, but it is difficult to know how many more meals we will be serving and for how long. As with so many aspects of this pandemic, the situation evolves daily.
In light of the proclamation to stay at home from the governors of both Oregon and Washington, the majority of our Resource Center staff is working from home, with just a handful still commuting into the office. We have adjusted the workflow in our Central Kitchen to keep six feet of distance between workers and have modified our communal spaces to allow for social distancing.
In a 1966 speech, Robert Kennedy said, “There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.”
These are, indeed, interesting times. But no matter how far apart we may be, remember: we’re in this together.
If you would like to make an additional donation to see us through these uncertain times, please visit our webpage at mowp.org/donate. Every gift will be used to meet the needs of homebound seniors during this crisis.