Meals on wheels hit by resignations

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Finding enough volunteers to cover meals on wheels deliveries is proving a daily juggling act for Age Concern Otago meals on wheels co-ordinator Kristen Beardsmore.

The volunteer service, which delivers hot meals at lunchtime to hundreds of Dunedin people each year, has been hit by a recent spate of driver resignations.

About 30 drivers, many of them long-standing volunteers, have stepped down.

“It is often the case that drivers think about it over the Christmas-New Year period and decide to resign,” Mrs Beardsmore said.

“We have a large cohort of drivers in their 70s and 80s, who have often been volunteering with us for decades, who feel it’s time to retire.”

Losing 30 drivers had left gaps in the driver rosters for the city’s 20 meals on wheels runs, and had created ” a bit of a dilemma” for her.

“Making sure we have all of the runs covered is proving quite difficult some days.”

To cover the shortfall, Mrs Beardsmore is urgently calling for anyone who has been thinking about becoming a meals on wheels volunteer driver to join up and lend a hand.

“It is usually a monthly commitment, which most people find fits in well with their lifestyle,” she said.

“Delivering meals on wheels is very rewarding – the drivers tell me they get a lot out of it.”

Delivering the meals also gave volunteers an opportunity to meet the mainly elderly clients and gain a true picture of how they were living, she said.

The Age Concern Otago meals on wheels service has about 600 drivers, who deliver about 4200 meals each year for the city’s two main providers – Dunedin Hospital and the Home of St Barnabas. The 20 driver runs cover from Brighton and Mosgiel to North Dunedin.

“We have people from all walks of life delivering the meals – retired people, individuals, service clubs and businesses,” Mrs Beardsmore said.

Meals on wheels was the subject of controversy last year, after the production of hospital meals was taken over by Compass, prompting concern over meal quality. At the time, many meals recipients voted with their feet.

Things had now “settled down”, and there had recently been an increase in the number of people receiving the Compass meals, Mrs Beardsmore said.

To register as a meals on wheels driver, phone Kristen Beardsmore on 477-1040 ext 4.