Volunteers with Meals on Wheels are doing double-duty during the heat wave, especially in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area where temperatures have peaked near one-hundred degrees several days this week. Spokesman Jeff Reinhardt says all Iowans would be doing a good turn to check on their elderly neighbors, just as the Meals on Wheels volunteers do for the folks on their routes.
“Unfortunately, we only think about that on the hottest days or the coldest days or the snowiest days,” Reinhardt says. “Maybe they could use a ride to the grocery store or the pharmacy or something like that, particularly on a hot day like this. If you do have a neighbor, make sure they are okay and they have some way of keeping themselves cool and have access to water and things like that.”
He says the agency’s volunteers do much more than just deliver meals. “The nutrition aspect is very important but the socialization aspect is so important,” Reinhardt says. “For some of these recipients, the driver may be the only individual they see all day. We encourage our drivers to be sociable, come in, say hello. Get to know the folks on their route.”
Reinhardt says volunteer drivers are urged to report any problems they may notice. “They do that every day,” he says. “They get to know the people on their routes and they know when things aren’t right. They are encouraged to call us if there is a situation and we’ll look into it to see what can be done to rectify the matter.”
Reinhardt says the volunteers also make sure the people on their routes are coping with the heat. They look to see if the inside of the home is comfortable and for any sign the person may be in trouble. “It’s another set of eyes going into these homes to look in on people and make sure they’re okay,” he says.
“Maybe they notice things like food not being eaten, dishes piling up in the sink or newspapers piling up or mail piling up. If they feel there is a need for us to look into it, they’ll call us and we will send someone out to make sure everything is okay.” There are more than 60 Meals on Wheels outlets in Iowa.
In Council Bluffs, each volunteer drives a one-hour route to deliver 15 to 20 meals a day and there are some 145 elderly people on the daily program. For information on the nearest Meals on Wheels program, visit: www.mealcall.org.