By Benjamin Joe
Meals on Wheels of Niagara Falls started in 1970. It was the very first local meal provider in Niagara Falls. It is a private nonprofit, meaning that it doesn’t accept funding from the government, but subsists on client payments and private donations that generous individuals will often supply. The organization has been doing this for a very long time, and now they need help.
“We are badly in need of volunteers,” said Lydia Shiposki, executive director of Meals on Wheels of Niagara Falls. “Especially drivers and people to deliver the meals to our clients in the Niagara Falls area. We go out as far as around the Summit Park Mall then up into DeVeaux, downtown Niagara Falls, and as far as St. Mary’s Hospital. We have approximately 50 to 60 clients every day that we deliver to and several on a waiting list, and we badly need drivers.”
Volunteers bring healthy food to those that are unable to prepare it. That may be for a short time, or long-term. According to the group’s website, mownf.org, there is not an age limit to receiving help.
“Basically we prepare restaurant-quality meals. We have a chef who came from the restaurant business,” Shiposki said. “He prepares quality meals and our volunteers come and they deliver them to people in the community. We don’t have an age requirement; we don’t have an income requirement. If you’re unable to prepare meals for yourself or purchase the ingredients to prepare healthy meals, we would deliver you a meal.
“There is a cost for our meals. Our clients pay $6.50 for a hot meal and $7.50 for a hot meal as well as a cold lunch. That’s basically a sandwich and a salad for lunch.”
There are many volunteer positions in the Meals on Wheels organization. According to Shiposki, the most needed are drivers who would work between 11 a.m. and noon, as well as servers who would ride with the drivers and deliver the meal into the hands of the client. There are also positions for kitchen help who would work from 7:30 a.m. to noon, and custodial volunteer positions that work from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. five days a week.
Finally, fundraising positions are also needed to assist at events.
“They’re all volunteers. We currently have about 40 volunteers involved in our program, but as I say, we need more,” Shiposki said. “We currently have seven routes, and are looking to open an eighth route we have so many people waiting. The only thing holding us back is we don’t have enough people to deliver.”
Drivers use their own vehicles and would only be needed for about an hour a day at noon. For many people those kinds of hours interfere with everything else that’s going on in their lives. That’s why finding a volunteer is so precious, because they’re really making an effort to help, Shiposki said.
“I think part of it is the time of the day,” she noted. “We do have some volunteers that come on their lunch hour. The majority of our volunteers are retired at this point, but I think that’s one of the biggest stumbling blocks.”
“We have some that come into the kitchen, packing the meals and getting everything set up to go. With seven routes, we have currently 30 people who either drive or ride along to help serve the food,” she said. “A maximum number on a route is 10. So, you could have 10 stops on your route. Some of our drivers do it solo, others do it along with someone else, and they just drive and another person actually does the actual door-to-door delivery.
“If we could get another five to seven volunteers, even people who would be willing to come on as a substitute basis, say a volunteer was sick or whatever, then we would be in good shape. You figure that you need, if you’re driving, you need somebody for five days a week. Some of our volunteers will do one day a week, others will do two or three days a week. It all depends on the person.
“If anybody can help out, they can call us or go our website,” Shiposki concluded. “Or if they know anyone who needs meals, they can give us a call.”
For more information on how to receive a meal, or volunteer, call 716-282-3468 or visit the website at www.mownf.org.