Furloughed employees volunteer at Meals on Wheels

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A group of furloughed federal employees volunteered this past Tuesday with the Meals on Wheels program in Berkeley County in order to give back to the community while out of work.

“We wouldn’t be here without our volunteers,” said Dianne Waldron, program manager of Meals on Wheels of Berkeley County, adding that she was delighted to have the individuals volunteer. “Many of our volunteers have served for over two decades.”

Waldron said there are more than 120 volunteers, which include drivers, packers, kitchen help and board members.

The drivers, who deliver food Monday through Friday, cover the entire 322 miles of the county. They deliver daily low-cost, hot and nutritious meals to the home of anyone in Berkeley County who is homebound. The driver also serves as a well-check on the individual.

“They get to know the folks they deliver to and become their friends,” Waldron said. “The folks we deliver to, many of them are isolated or live alone. That human contact they get from that driver is essential. … It is very important that drivers are in tune and their heart is in it. Like today, with the weather, they are here.”

In 2018, Waldron reported the organization served 30,240 meals, with approximately 23 percent being veterans and 22 percent not able to pay the nominal fee. Since being established in 1971, the organization has served more than 1 million hot meals to Berkeley County residents.

“My grandmother depends on Meals on Wheels back home, and their outreach to her is probably the most special part of her day,” said a furloughed employee who requested not to be named due to rules of her employment. “I have an incredibly close relationship with her, so anything I can do to help provide that to other elderly people who just need the help.”

She added that there are other federal workers out there volunteering their time as well.

“I think it is just giving them a purpose,” she added. “We don’t realize how much our jobs are part of our lives until you don’t have it.”

The volunteers spent the morning and afternoon packaging cold bags of milk or juice and a dessert; packaging hot meals; and assisting with clean-up.

“They pitched in immediately,” Waldron said. “When they walked in the door, they started helping us pack. They could see the emergency and the need.”

For anyone unable to volunteer at least one day a month, Waldron said donations are always appreciated.

“We rely on grants and donations,” she said. “The reason we rely on grants and donations is by design. We only charge a nominal fee for our meals because the folks we deliver our meals to, the median age is 81 (and) they are on fixed incomes. We have to subsidize the difference that the meals costs us.”

Waldron said Meals on Wheels also relies on volunteers for its annual fundraiser. This year’s golf tournament will be held in May at the Woods Resort.

By Kerry Minor

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