Will You Volunteer for Meals on Wheels?
Attention, drivers! Meals on Wheels is in desperate need of volunteer drivers in south Pinellas County.
There are many volunteer opportunities for local mature adults who want "to give back to the community," while enjoying what they do and making a difference in the lives of others.
One group of seniors found that special volunteer experience as drivers for Neighborly Care Network's Meals on Wheels Program in Pinellas County. They are responsible for delivering nearly 1,000 meals to needy, hungry, elderly people every week day.
Many of these volunteers are enthusiastic about what they do for fellow seniors who are homebound. These seniors may be frail and rely on meals delivered for their daily nutrition.
For Christina Angelou, site coordinator for the Meals on Wheels initiative at the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center, 5501 27th Avenue S., the enthusiasm is sweet music to her ears.
That's because it gives her hope: She hopes other local seniors (or younger people who have the time) learn how rewarding being a volunteer driver for this program can be, so they will jump on board and sign up to help meet her dire need for drivers.
For her, a dozen more drivers would be a big help, two dozen would be even better.
After all, there are 10 routes she needs covered Monday through Friday, or a total of 50 routes for the week.
Hence, theoretically she needs 50 drivers a week, although some drivers cover more than one route and work more than one day a week to meet the need.
Christina says having a plentiful supply of drivers would help fill the gaps that often occur when someone suddenly is unable to drive, due to an illness or a family issue.
It would also help to lessen the burden greatly on her current drivers and would help to get the meals out more quickly to shut-in seniors.
But this isn't the only South Pinellas site for this program in need of more drivers. RuthE Hargary, site coordinator for Neighborly's Meals on Wheels Program at the Sunshine Center, 330 5th Street N., St. Petersburg, said another 8 to 10 drivers would be helpful.
Ilene Beacham, site coordinator for the program at the Enoch Davis Center in South St. Pete, 1111 18th Avenue S., stated she could use as many as 20 more volunteers to drive routes in south county.
Two seniors who have been delivering meals over the past several years from out of the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center are Jeff and Susie Sawyer. Ages 68 and 65 respectively, the couple, who retired here from Pittsburgh, says they meet "the coolest people" and look upon their volunteer work "as a great way for us to give something back."
"We have been pretty fortunate," Susie stated. They further noted that what makes this type of volunteer work especially rewarding is the simple fact that they can see "how grateful" the people are whom they meet. Having this direct contact with recipients of this program makes that possible compared to other types of volunteer service.
John Goldemen, 57, retired from Verizon, shares the Sawyers' sentiment. "I can see clearly many of the people I visit are very grateful. They also welcome someone coming to their homes because often I am the only person they will see that day." He added he believes in community service and being a Meals on Wheels driver is his way of "giving back. I have been very blessed."
Richard "Rich" and Delores Casey, both 69, who live in Northeast St. Petersburg, have been volunteer drivers for the Meals on Wheels program out of the Gulfport Senior Center for two years. The Caseys say what makes this kind of volunteer work memorable is when you hear from people first-hand what getting this meal means to them. "So often I hear 'I'm go glad you are here. I am really hungry.' " Rich noted.
For 80-year-old Ken Fox, who shares a route with another driver, Kristine Lussier, 41, revealed a further sentiment for why he drives. For him, in part, it goes to his religious faith. He said it is all about giving to others because "it is simply the Christian thing to do."
Although most drivers are 50-plus in part, because they have the time in the late mornings when meals need to be delivered to perform this kind of work, anyone 18 years of age or older, with a clean driving record and whom can pass a background check, is eligible to be a Meals on Wheels volunteer.
Those interested in becoming drivers to deliver meals weekdays out of the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center should call Christina Angelou at (727) 344-2111.
Those interested in driving to deliver meals from the Sunshine Center should contact RuthE Hargary at (727) 893-7136. If you prefer delivering meals from the Enoch Davis Center site, please call Ilene Beacham at (727) 823-4442.