COVID-19 means homebound seniors lose personal touch during Meals on Wheels dropoffs

Volunteers will leave food at door due to coronavirus; phone calls are planned

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Hundreds of homebound seniors and people with disabilities in the south metro area are losing a regular source of human contact this week, as Nourish Meals on Wheels transitions to a no-interaction model of food delivery in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We hate this,” said Diane McClymonds, Nourish Meals on Wheels’ director. “It breaks our hearts. Our clients and volunteers look so forward to the opportunity to visit, but this is what we have to do to keep people safe.”

Nourish Meals on Wheels, previously called TLC Meals on Wheels, delivers food and companionship to hundreds of clients around the south metro area. Clients are invited to pay for their meals, but more than half pay less than the full cost, or nothing at all.

In previous interviews with Colorado Community Media, clients have called the group’s volunteers their guardian angels. Many say they draw a sense of security and comfort from the visits.

“It’s their connection to the community,” McClymonds said. “It’s validation that they’re not forgotten. That someone cares.”

Now, McClymonds said, in light of a pandemic that is forcing unprecedented “social distancing,” drivers are instructed to leave meals hanging on the doorknob and ring the doorbell while leaving.

In place of the visits, Meals on Wheels is instituting a program called “Client Care Calls,” where clients can add themselves to a list to receive regular phone calls from volunteers.

“This way we can check in and see if they need anything,” McClymonds said.

The group may face other hardships: With a small staff, the group could be hard-pressed to keep food production up if an employee becomes infected with coronavirus and must be quarantined. The group may be forced to reduce the number of delivery days, or switch to only frozen meals rather than hot food.

McClymonds said there are so many unknowns.

“How long will this go on? I naively put out that I thought this would last just two weeks. Now I’m afraid that’s overly optimistic.”

The public can help by donating funds to the group, McClymonds said. They will also be accepting donations of nonperishable food at their headquarters, located in the southeast quadrant of the intersection of Broadway and Arapahoe Road. Volunteers can apply to make deliveries or phone calls at nourishmealsonwheels.org.

In the meantime, McClymonds said everyone can help people in their lives.

“Call your mom,” McClymonds said. “If you know someone who might be quarantined or isolated, call. Check in with people. Don’t let social distancing become social isolation. And pray.”

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