By Mary Heyl
“Share an hour, save a life:” That’s all it takes to give back to your community in a meaningful way when you volunteer for Meals on Wheels for Western New York.
Since 1969, Meals on Wheels for WNY, a non-profit agency, has been serving the Greater Buffalo area, including Springville, Sardinia, Concord and Chaffee, to provide homebound seniors and disabled individuals with hot, healthy meals every day.
“We have a real need for volunteers in Springville,” explained Rachel Leidenfrost, director of strategic communications for Meals on Wheels for WNY, “as this is a difficult site to staff due to its geographic location and availability of volunteers.” It’s easy to get involved and it only takes an hour a week to make an impact on your local community.
The 24,000-square foot state of the art Meals on Wheels commissary is located in Buffalo and prepares almost 6,000 meals per day that are then delivered to pick-up sites throughout the region. “Instead of going to the commissary, volunteers go to one of 25 satellite sites in the region where the meals are waiting to be picked up and delivered to the community. The Springville site is at the First Presbyterian Church on Buffalo Street,” explained Leidenfrost. Volunteers should arrive at the church by 11:30 a.m. when the meals are ready to be delivered throughout the area.
Individuals can volunteer to drive or serve meals (bring them from the vehicle to the house); those who would like to serve but aren’t able to drive must be able to get to the church, where they can be paired with a driver. “Some volunteers do both the driving and the serving,” said Leidenfrost. “Just a little time and a warm heart is all it takes.”
From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., volunteers deliver the meals along their designated route, which has a maximum of 12 houses so that servers can spend a few minutes visiting each client. Each driver is given two coolers and a small oven that is about the size of a cooler full of meals, which are labeled based on the dietary needs of the client, such as diabetic diets. All drivers are given easy to follow turn-by-turn instructions to each house and then back to the Springville site after the meals have been delivered. Although 12 is the maximum number of houses per route, most routes in Springville have less, so it generally takes no more than an hour to deliver meals.
It’s easy to get involved, even if you only have one hour a week! “Most of our Springville volunteers are retirees who volunteer three or four days a week, but we have students and others who volunteer when they can, like during school breaks and summer vacation. You can volunteer for as many or as few hours as you want,” said Leidenfrost.
Indeed, the flexibility of the program makes it a great way to fulfill school or college community service hours. Those who wish to be drivers must have a valid driver’s license and their own vehicle, and students need to be 17 or older to drive on their own. Students younger than 16 are welcome to volunteer as long as they are accompanied by a parent.
“This is a great program to get involved in, and whether you can be a short-term volunteer or give a few hours a week of your time, it makes a huge difference,” said Leidenfrost. Those interested in volunteering in Springville should contact Lauren Gousy, volunteer relations associate, at (716)822-2002, ext. 21. To learn more about Meals on Wheels for WNY, visit https://mealsonwheelswny.org and follow Meals on Wheels for WNY on Facebook.