Meals on Wheels rolling along in spite of coronavirus pandemonium
While the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc with normal life across the country, recipients of Meals on Wheels in Genesee County can rest assured their meal delivery will continue.
Paul Saskowski, director of Business Services for the Arc of Orleans and Genesee, said they have had to make adjustments, but their employees are taking things in stride, and all recipients are receiving their meals as usual.
He said for the most part they have had no trouble receiving food from their supplier, although he said the supplier has found it more difficult to get food, as the food chains are demanding more.
“The only trouble we’ve had is getting one of our whole wheat breads, but we were able to find a suitable substitute,” Saskowski said.
He said drivers are taking extra precautions, wearing gloves, keeping their distance and using hand sanitizer after every delivery. He said Emergency Management offices in both counties have been very helpful, providing hand sanitizer they had in reserve.
Both congregate meal sites in Orleans and Genesee counties were forced to close and five people in Orleans County and 30 in Genesee County, who relied on the meal sites, were transferred to home meal delivery.
Saskowski said they have a goal to provide each Meals on Wheels recipient with extra meals, so they have a stockpile of food in their house.
“It is our goal in Orleans County to provide each household with 10 extra meals, in case we are pulled off the road for any reason,” Saskowski said. “We are very close to that goal.”
In spite of all the adjustments, Saskowski praised his staff, saying their attitude through all of this has been wonderful.
In Genesee County, Office for the Aging Director Diana Fox and services administrator Dorian Ely weighed in on the situation.
“We are working to build emergency services here so we can provide two extra meals per recipient,” Fox said. “We are also very committed to keeping the personal contact with our clientele. Those who, for one reason or another, do not receive a meal that day get a call from us to make sure they are all right.”
Their drivers also wear masks and leave the meal just inside the door, unless the recipient needs it put in a more convenient place. Then the driver will put it where the client needs it to be, keeping his distance, Ely said.
Before starting out, volunteer drivers are encouraged to take their temperature to make sure they are all right.
Recent passing of Matilda’s Law by Albany has placed more hardship on the program, as many of their volunteers are elderly themselves, Fox and Ely added.
“The law sets a strict set of rules for the vulnerable populations, like senior citizens or people with underlying conditions,” Ely said. “Many of our volunteers fall into that category.”
Fox said Matilda’s Law* affects all seniors in Genesee County and it’s important everyone understands the law and how it pertains to them. The law states that these people must stay inside, not visit homes with multiple people and maintain six feet of distance from others.
The Arc delivers Meals on Wheels to about 120 homes in each county.
*Editor's Note: Matilda's Law, named for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's mother, was announced last week as part of the "New York on Pause" Executive Order, which took affect at 8 p.m. Sunday. It includes the following rules for vulnerable populations:
- Remain indoors;
- Can go outside for solitary exercise;
- Prescreen all visitors and aides by taking their temperature and seeing if person is exhibiting other flu-like symptoms;
- Do not visit households with multiple people;
- Wear a mask when in the company of others;
- To the greatest extent possible, everyone in the presence of vulnerable people should wear a mask;
- Always stay at least six feet away from individuals; and
- Do not take public transportation unless urgent and absolutely necessary.