To find an example of superheroes living in the real world, look no further than the men and women who volunteer for Meals on Wheels People. They may not wear swishing capes, but their selflessness and dedication go above and beyond to feed homebound seniors and provide them with vital social interaction.
Sadly, their kindness doesn’t make them impervious to Covid-19.
During the early days of this ongoing health crisis, there were many unknowns, yet one thing was certain; some people were at a higher risk from coronavirus, and that included many Meals on Wheels People volunteers. The nonprofit found itself shorthanded and facing the growing costs of adapting its methods, while making the safety of everyone involved a top priority.
In the face of this monumental threat to Portlanders’ health, OnPoint Community Credit Union proved that another measure of our city’s well-being is what we do to support one another through hardship.
Sara Crowder, a senior indirect loan processor for OnPoint, was one of the brave employees who answered that initial call for assistance, stepping in to deliver meals around downtown in March and April of 2020. “It was a little nerve wracking because everything was so new,” she explains. “The first time I went out, it was even before masks became a mandated requirement. So I took my friend with me, and she and I still wore our own face masks and gloves just to make sure that everyone was protected.”
By now, everyone is familiar with that sense of unease, but despite the risks, Crowder knew her efforts were needed, and ultimately, they ended up being rewarding too. “When you’re delivering the meals to some of these individuals, it also counts as a wellness check for them, just to make sure that they’re doing okay because everyone’s been locked up in their houses. Some people were really excited and wanted to say hi and converse because they hadn’t seen anyone except their closer relatives. It just felt very important when I was doing it.”
She and several of her OnPoint colleagues helped Meals on Wheels People get through the disruption of the pandemic’s first few months, at least until new protocols could be put in place that would enable many of its regular volunteers to safely contribute again. And it’s critical that they did; since Covid-19 first hit the metro area, requests for meal assistance have increased by 300%.
On an organizational level, OnPoint doubled down on its employees’ generosity, donating $100,000 to Meals on Wheels People’s Covid-19 Emergency Fund — the first corporate gift toward the $2 million campaign.
“Meals on Wheels People tends to be one of the organizations that our employees feel passionate about,” says Dannielle Stewart, OnPoint’s Community Relations Specialist. “As we are leveraging their opinions to get feedback on where we should be donating, we are continually encouraged to give to them.”
This relationship really took off at the end of 2019. “Every year, we do an employee holiday giving campaign, where each of our almost 900 employees get $100 that they can direct to one of three different organizations that we select, or they can split it between the three. Meals on Wheels People was one of those organizations that benefitted,” Stewart explains.
The credit union also held a “lunch and learn” for its employees, sharing information about the nonprofit’s delivery driver program, and this year, it will sponsor a team at the Stride for Seniors event. “Moving forward, we hope we can continue this partnership with them,” she says. “One of our focus areas is community development, and I think that this really meets the need of supporting the community, in a way of diversity, equity and inclusion, to make sure that those vulnerable seniors are still able to have that social contact and support through these really challenging times.”
By Ben McBee