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Meals On Wheels still providing lifeline to elderly & disabled clients; says need has jumped 390%

COVID-19 has Meals On Wheels changing deliveries to frozen meals once a week. The non-profit is asking for donations as it anticipates a surge of demand.

GERMANTOWN, Md. — At a Germantown church parking lot, volunteers cheered the arrival of a truck coming in from the Montgomery County government filled with boxes of frozen food for the elderly and disabled. 

As Cindy Majane with Meals on Wheels’ Germantown chapter points out, protecting their clients from COVID-19 has meant changing how they do things.

"We’ve gone into clients homes. We’ve interacted with them quite a bit. Sometimes we’ll stay and chat," Majane said. "But now, we’re really not able to do that; and that’s a valuable part of our service, actually, is the social interaction."

WUSA9 followed Colleen, a volunteer for Meals On Wheels. She typically has several stops on her route, from senior apartment complexes to individual homes.

Credit: Nathan Baca
Meals On Wheels volunteer waves to a senior client from a distance due to COVID concerns

Jenny Young, vice president of communications for the Meals On Wheels national organization, says the non-profit fed 66,834 seniors a total of 6,007,036 meals last year. 

During the week of March 22 alone, she says visits to their Find Meals page increased by 390% compared to an average week prior to the pandemic.

"What we’re doing now is just going in once a week with a week's worth of food that’s frozen and then calling them, so that people still have the social interaction and we can make sure they’re OK," Majane said.

The spirit of volunteerism sweeping the area since the pandemic means more people are stepping forward to drive meals, but the non-profit says what’s needed most is monetary donations to pay for more food.

"If our demand goes up too high, we may be faced with telling people we can’t help them even if we have the volunteers because of funding issues," Majane said. "We have not hit that point yet, but I’m just thinking forward. If there’s an exponential rise in requests, what would we be able to do?"

To help your local Meals On Wheels chapter, click here.

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