SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Meals on Wheels in Syracuse is struggling to find enough volunteer drivers to deliver the food since it went back to five days a week last month, so much so that full-time staff has to help out with delivering meals.
“Everybody steps up if they need to,” said Michael Nortman, community relations director. “The executive director will go out and deliver meals if they have to.”
Even though that pulls staff away from their responsibilities, Nortman says there isn’t really any other choice.
“The bottom line is that the clients are gonna get fed one way or another, even if the staff has to do it,” Nortman said.
Meals on Wheels went to three-day-a-week delivery last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This time of year is already difficult for the organization, Nortman says, because most of its volunteers are students or retired people who leave for the holidays.
Bob Dougherty, a retired probation officer and former member of the Syracuse Common Council, has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels since March of last year. He’s one of many volunteers who are picking up extra routes to compensate for the low volunteer numbers.
“(The clients) expect to get their food, and so somebody has gotta get it there,” Dougherty said.
The non-profit group:
- Delivers about 800 meals a day.
- Has 30 different routes to deliver those meals, and prefers to keep volunteers to one route each.
- Needs 150 drivers each week.
That’s difficult enough to organize without factoring in last-minute cancellations because of things like illness.
“I wouldn’t want to be the one coordinating it because I’d screw it up for sure,” Dougherty said.
The number of volunteers it’s short by is different each week but has been as many as nine people this fall. That’s when veteran drivers such as Dougherty get asked to pick up a couple of routes and staff get involved.
“You know it’s funny I actually knew a person who was doing one of the routes and she was sick,” Dougherty said. “And I didn’t put two and two together but then I ended up doing her route.”
Anyone interested in volunteering with Meals on Wheels can sign up on the website.