More drivers needed

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Age Concern Otago is facing rapidly increasing demand for its Meals on Wheels delivery service, at a time when some long-term volunteers are stepping down.

Meals on Wheels co-ordinator Fiona McMillan is searching for an additional 40 to 50 drivers to help deliver up to 3000 meals a month to mostly older people in their homes.

“The number of people receiving meals is continuing to grow, and at the same time some of our longest-serving volunteers are having to call it quits,” Miss McMillan said.

“Some of them have been with us for 30 years, but are now finding it difficult to manage – and they have really done their bit.”

Each month, Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers transport 1600 to 2100 Dunedin Hospital meals, plus 800 to 1000 meals from The Home of St Barnabas.

Drivers included service clubs, businesses and individuals – many of whom were very busy – so it was important not to over-burden people, she said.

“Most of our drivers deliver meals fortnightly, or monthly, and that seems to work pretty well.

“We don’t like to ask people to do it every week too often. We are aware they are using their time, vehicles and petrol.”

Like most towns and cities in New Zealand, Dunedin’s population was ageing, resulting in a growing number of people needing help to remain living in the community.

“Meals on Wheels are vital for a lot of people, and it is so much more than just delivering a hot meal – it is providing human contact for people and keeping an eye on their wellbeing,” Miss McMillan said.

She often received calls from volunteer drivers if they had not seen a person who was usually home, or if a person seemed unwell.

“A lot of our volunteers get to know the people they are bringing meals to quite well, and they are happy to keep an eye out for them.

“It is also a nice thing for our volunteers to do, and the long-term volunteers are sad when they have to retire.”

Anyone who is interested in becoming a Meals on Wheels driver is welcome to phone Age Concern Otago on 477-1040, or email mealsonwheels@ageconcernotago.co.nz