Meals on Wheels has plenty of clients who want to use its service. But it is again facing a shortage of volunteer drivers in East County to deliver hot meals to seniors living in Antioch, Bay Point and Pittsburg.
"I do not have to go out and look for clients. What I really need is drivers," said Sharon Fitzgerald, program manager for Meals on Wheels and Senior Outreach Services in Walnut Creek.
The nonprofit provides hot meals to seniors in Central Contra Costa County and the East County cities of Antioch, Bay Point and Pittsburg. Nearly 300 seniors in those three cities use Meals on Wheels.
"Meals on Wheels is not only about food. We provide a lot of companionship. Sometimes, the driver is the only person the senior sees that day," she said.
Since 1968, the agency has delivered meals to homebound seniors 60 years and older who are unable to cook or shop for themselves.
Bill Puckett signed up as volunteer about a year ago to deliver meals to seniors in Pittsburg.
On Wednesday, he picked up meals at an Antioch distribution site for his Pittsburg route.
"It gives me something to do beside sit around the house," said the 71-year-old retiree who lives in Pittsburg. "And so many people, they really need the help, and I enjoy helping people."
At this time, all of the East County routes have waiting lists of seniors who want to sign up for the program. That is not the case with drivers.
Meals on Wheels
But in the last week or so, many volunteers are no longer available, meaning that six routes currently do not have permanent drivers assigned at this time. That leaves the agency in a crunch that requires staff members and substitute drivers to deliver meals on those six routes until permanent drivers can be found.
"We make sure the food gets there, (but) it makes it really late sometimes," Fitzgerald said.
Volunteers are asked to commit two hours of their time once a week between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to help deliver meals. Deliveries are made Monday through Friday, with frozen meals included in the Friday drop-off to provide seniors with meals over the weekend.
There are many reasons East County consistently ends up with a driver shortage, Fitzgerald said. Some volunteers have been unemployed, and then they get a job and go back to work. Or others go from a part-time to a full-time job, while some no longer live in the area.
"There is a great need (for drivers) in the area," she said.
Reach Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/eastcounty_girl.
Volunteers are asked to commit to two hours on one day a week to help deliver meals to seniors through the Meals on Wheels program. To sign up as a volunteer or for more information, contact program manager Sharon Fitzgerald at 925-937-8607 or firstname.lastname@example.org