Calling all volunteer drivers – and anyone from the guy on the street to corporate food people who could donate food or money. Meals on Wheels, the nationwide mobile meal program now in Palm Beach County, has its official kickoff tomorrow at Good Samaritan Medical Center.
Meals on Wheels of the Palm Beaches director Charlie Ring talked about the need in Palm Beach County.
“There are 140,000 people who are homebound in Palm Beach County, according to 2008 figures,” he said. “Most of them are under the radar. These are not indigent people, these are poor – there’s a difference. The indigent people qualify for free meals at a number of sites around the county. Most of our clients are above the poverty line.”
The program is an arm of the national-based MOWAA, based in Arlington, Va. There are 1400 affiliates nationwide. None is funded by the government.
“We’re a 501-C3 organization, but we don’t get a dime from the government – it’s all through donations and corporate sponsors,” Ring said.
A hot meal weekdays
Ring, 64, previously director of the Episcopal Charities of South Florida, has experience working with seniors and food programs. He said the are fragmented programs around the county through churches or other organizations that deliver groceries or produce to the mostly senior homebound, “But this is the only program delivering a hot meal to the homebound five days a week,” he said.
The meals cost $4.90 as produced by cooks at Good Samaritan, the location of the kitchens. That includes juice and fruit or dessert with the meal. “Some people – most of our clients, actually – can afford to pay that, but some can’t. We take what they can pay,” Ring said.
Clients are usually signed up by their adult children, he said. “Most of our clients don’t have computers or even phones.”
Money supporting the program and volunteers who deliver meals come from the private and corporate sector. “We hope to have more donations and get more corporate sponsors on board,” Ring said. The budget, he said is $130,000 a year right now, though he feels it will go down because few are donating in this economy. “I get paid only if there’s money left over at the end of the month. I haven’t been paid in a couple of months.”
He’s hands-on – his delivery date is Wednesdays. He’s hoping to get 45 volunteers to help with the three routes they service in West Palm Beach proper. They’d like to expand throughout the county. “We’ve been getting an awful lot of calls from Lake Worth – there’s obviously a need there, but right now, we don’t have the means to do it,” Ring said.
Drivers wanted in West Palm Beach
Volunteers are needed for delivery now. “We’re doing an adopt-a-route program, and right now, Seacrest Services, a company with 300 employees, is taking the entire distribution of a route one day a week. We hope to get others to do that.”
Otherwise, drivers, who must fill out a FDLE background check sheet, can pick one day a week, a month, or whatever time frame they choose to deliver meals. Drivers go to Good Samaritan and pick up their hot and cold food bags, and drive them to the clients in West Palm Beach. There are 85 clients at present, growing daily since it was launched in January, Ring said.
Volunteer coordinator is Jane Lill, who works part time. If interested in driving, call her at (561) 802-6979.
At Thursday’s event, Ring will be joined by Yolanda Rodriguez, of AARP Florida, Heyward Whetsell, board chairman of the MOW Palm Beaches, Steven Burghart, C.O.O. of Good Samaritan, and Dorothy Dunn of FAU’s Dept. of Nursing.
Meals on Wheels of the Palm Beaches Kickoff Event
- When: Thursday, May 5, 10 a.m.
- Where: Good Samaritan Medical Center Atrium, 1309 N. Flagler Dr., West Palm Beach
- Contact and volunteer info: Meals on Wheels offices, 561-802-6979