Meals on Wheels meal storage

Debby Shuck, executive director of Senior Action Inc. which oversee the Meals on Wheels program, loads coolers used to transport hot meals for senior citizens into her vehicle Thursday.

Thanks to volunteers and community support, the local Meals on Wheels program offered by Senior Action Inc. has been able to continue offering hot meals to seniors in the city despite troubles presented by the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

Debby Shuck, executive director, said she had some concern about the program continuing in the third week of March after many of its volunteers had to stop delivering for their personal safety.

“Initially, we had a lot of people contacting us asking if we’re going to be able to deliver,” she said.

Another problem was an increase in the number of clients. The program increased its deliveries from about 50 meals per day to around 70 daily.

Meals on Wheels delivery

Betty Hert of Hastings delivers a meal to a local senior citizen on Friday for the Meals on Wheels program.

With the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 for seniors going out in public, the program became more important for people.

“It is an essential service to people who are stuck at home,” Shuck said. “They are really relying on these meals.”

At first, she was a bit worried as several of the volunteers were unable to continue, but some volunteers were able to pick up extra days for a short time to help out.

Shuck said program organizers contacted the United Way of South Central Nebraska and local churches to let them know about the need. She was encouraged by the number of people who agreed to help.

“We had a great response,” she said. “We’ve been able to cover all of our routes every day.”

When Perkins Pavilion, a Good Samaritan Society-Hastings Village nursing center, no longer was able to prepare the meals, Runcie’s Catering was gracious enough to take over, Shuck said.

Volunteers also helped the organization keep the staff and people delivering meals safe. She said one of their volunteers made cloth masks for all of the drivers and staff. Pacha Soap donated hand sanitizer to provide to drivers.

Volunteers also limit the amount of contact they have with the meal recipients to avoid the potential of spreading the virus to them.

“We’re just being really extra careful,” Shuck said.

Susan Spady of Hastings is one of the volunteers who stepped up when the program ran short of help. Normally, Spady delivers meals twice a week with her granddaughter, Melodee. After some volunteers were unable to continue, Spady started delivering five days a week to make sure all the clients were served, though her granddaughter wasn’t able to continue.

“It started as our project together,” Spady said. “I’m still doing it though she’s not able. She misses not being able to go out.”

Spady said she loves to volunteer in the community and feels the Meals on Wheels program is well organized while offering a crucial service to senior citizens.

Meals on Wheels chat

Betty Hert of Hastings chats with a local senior citizen after delivering a meal on Friday for the Meals on Wheels program.

“Meals on Wheels doesn’t actually take a lot of time out of your schedule,” she said. “Providing a healthy meal for a senior is very rewarding. For some of those people, you might be the only contact with them in the entire day.”

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