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Sussex Meals on Wheels services adapt

Shannon McNaught * Delaware
shannon.marvel@doverpost.com
Milford Beacon

Meals on Wheels services in Sussex County are continuing to provide homebound clients with food.

Two groups distribute food to the homebound in Sussex, CHEER Meals on Wheels and Meals on Wheels Lewes-Rehoboth.

Both are taking similar precautions in light of health concerns. All drivers are wearing gloves and masks and practicing social distancing.

Both have similar new food drop-off methods. The package is placed on the client’s stoop or hung on the doorknob. The driver knocks on the door, steps back at least six feet and waits. If the client is unable to come to the door, the food is placed inside on the closest surface to the door. The driver doesn’t go any further inside.

Meals on Wheels Lewes-Rehoboth takes care of 250 to 300 clients around Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey Beach and Harbeson. They took on some new clients when the pandemic began, but they also lost some due to family and other support people being off work.

They ended up adding about 14 new clients, which equals a new driving route.

"We need more volunteers," said Meals on Wheels Lewes-Rehoboth Executive Director Kathy Keuski.

Each month, Fins Hospitality Group donates to Meals on Wheels Lewes-Rehoboth to buy some extras for the neediest clients.

“These people have no food in their house other than what we give them,” said Keuski.“This gets them things like tuna fish, mayonnaise, paper products, stuff we don’t provide.”

They  have provided shelf-stable meals in case of a total shutdown – which isn’t expected to occur. Last week, they gave clients chocolate Easter bunnies.

CHEER Meals on Wheels

CHEER delivers food to about 1,300 clients in all the areas of Sussex County that Meals on Wheels Lewes-Rehoboth doesn’t.

“We didn’t take on any new clients when the pandemic started because we didn’t know what our capacity to serve people would be,” said CHEER Communications Director Carolyn O’Neal.

What they did do was prepare 3,500 shelf-stable meals and deliver them. Everyone who gets meals from CHEER now has a two-week supply of food in the pantry.

CHEER Meals on Wheels usually has about 400 drivers, some staff, some volunteer. When the pandemic began and unessential employees were sent home, some of them were transferred to driver duty to keep them working. Local businesses stepped up to distribute, too.

“We’ve had a lot of offers from different businesses whose workers aren’t busy. They’ve volunteered their time and vehicles,” O’Neal said.

CHEER created their own mini-mart and delivery service for members and clients.

“When seniors started getting leery about going out, we started a little mini-grocery store where we were stockpiling staples,” O’Neal said. “They can call in and order and we deliver, at cost.”

She stressed that there is no guarantee that any item will be in stock, since they are only able to offer what they can find at grocery stores.

There is no delivery charge. The program is funded in part by Delaware’s Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities.

How to help

Donate and/or volunteer:

Meals on Wheels Lewes-Rehoboth

CHEER Meals on Wheels