Meals on Wheels Issues Appeal for Volunteer Drivers to Handle Surge in Homebound People Needing Service
Meals on Wheels of Polk County, Inc. has issued an urgent appeal for additional volunteer drivers to help it handle a significant surge in the number of homebound people needing freshly-cooked, nutritious meals on a daily basis. According to Susan Eldridge, executive director of Winter Haven-based Meals on Wheels, Inc., the increased demand for service is a direct result of more senior citizens opting to remain inside their homes to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus. During the pandemic, the number of households served by Meals on Wheels has surged from 350 to between 450 and 500 per day. “The drastic increase in the number of people we serve has created a big need for more volunteer drivers. As a result, we are appealing to people to volunteer their time to drive routes in Winter Haven, Lake Alfred, Dundee, Haines City, Davenport, Auburndale, Lake Hamilton and parts of Lakeland,” Eldridge said, noting each route serves about 8 to 15 households. Volunteers can choose their route and the days they will drive them.
In addition to individuals and couples, Eldridge said businesses, banks, churches, schools, non-profits and sororities can sponsor teams of drivers to work on certain days.
Eldridge said all those who own a car, possess a valid driver’s license and have proof of insurance can drive for Meals on Wheels. Drivers pick up meals for their routes between 9:30 am and 10:30 am at Meals on Wheels headquarters at 620 Sixth Street in Winter Haven and generally complete the delivery of meals to all households on their route by 12:00 noon.
Volunteers who wish to get involved have the option of driving the same route each day they are on duty or serving as substitutes for those who are unable to drive on certain days, Eldridge said.
“All of our volunteer drivers derive a sense of satisfaction in knowing they are making a difference in our community not only by getting delicious, freshly-cooked meals to needy people, but also by greeting them. This is a tremendous reward for all of our wonderful volunteers,” Eldridge said.
All those who would like to serve as Meals on Wheels drivers should contact Susan Eldridge at 299-1616 or visit Meals on Wheels headquarters any weekday between the hours of 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.
Meals on Wheels is a volunteer-driven, non-profit organization that provides freshly-cooked meals each weekday for nearly 500 homebound people mostly over the age of 65 residing in Winter Haven, Auburndale, Lake Alfred, Dundee, Haines City, Lake Hamilton, Davenport and parts of Lakeland.
In addition to drivers, Meals on Wheels welcomes volunteers to serve as cooks, thrift store clerks, fundraisers and board members. For more information about MOW, including volunteer opportunities, visit the Web site at www.mealsonwheelspolk.com.
Because it receives no government funding, Meals on Wheels of Polk County depends on fundraising initiatives, thrift store sales and donations from individuals, corporate sponsors, churches and non-profit charitable organizations to carry on its mission of feeding and interacting with homebound citizens of all ages and backgrounds.