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Driver’s needed: Meals on Wheels seeking delivery drivers

Austin Hot Meals on Wheels is looking for people to volunteer one hour a week to deliver lunches to elderly clients.

They are currently in need of four drivers, but more are welcome to volunteer.

“The Mayo Clinic, Sacred Heart Care Center, and Comforcare are all pick-up locations for meals,” said Mike Biedermann, president of the board of Austin Hot Meals on Wheels. “We currently need drivers for Monday and Tuesday out of Sacred Heart, Tuesday out of Mayo Clinic and Thursday out of Comforcare.”

According to Biedermann, routes range from six to 10 miles, with about eight clients receiving deliveries per route. All clients live within the city limits of Austin with deliveries taking a total of one hour.

“We have a sheet for each route that allows drivers to know who to deliver to first,” he said.

Meals on Wheels driver Terry Taylor talks with Maxine Jacobson after delivering her Thursday meal. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Austin Hot Meals on Wheels has experienced a shortage of drivers since January. They currently deliver to 94 clients.

Biedermann encourages younger people to volunteer for the program.

“We have 10 drivers in their 80s, 35 in their 70s and five that are 65,” he said. “Our volunteers are aging.”

Biedermann says that volunteering is about more than just delivering meals to the elderly.

“The Meals on Wheels driver may be the only contact the client has all day,” he said. “If the drivers find them on the floor, or unresponsive, they’re instructed to call 911 immediately and wait for assistance.”

Meals on Wheels volunteer driver Terry Taylor begins sorting the meals for delivery Thursday morning at Sacred Heart Care Center. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Biedermann said measures are taken in the event the driver gets no response from the client.

“Clients generally let us know if they won’t be there during delivery times,” he said. “If we don’t get a response when someone is expected to be home, the coordinator will call in the afternoon. If they can’t get a hold of them, we call the emergency contact.”

Austin Hot Meals on Wheels is funded through private pay, third party reimbursement, grants and donations. Biedermann says he is not concerned about proposed funding cuts on the federal level.

“It really wouldn’t affect us,” he said, pointing out that most of the clients are self-paid while others receive waivers and assistance from Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Volunteers can be compensated for gas mileage, from the time they leave home, through the delivery, and arrive back home, through the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. The RSVP also provides free supplemental accident and liability insurance during deliveries. The insurance covers what primary insurance does not, including deductibles.

If you are interested in volunteering with Austin Hot Meals on Wheels, call 507-438-3140 to speak to a driving coordinator.