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Pandemic leads to challenges for Mobile Meals

Posted at 6:02 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-23 19:04:44-05

AKRON, Ohio — Almost every day, Mobile Meals delivers about 2,500 meals to seniors and to those with disabilities in Summit, Cuyahoga, and Portage counties.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn't stopping the crucial deliveries, but it has definitely created a lot of challenges for the non-profit based in Akron.

For starters, Mobile Meals is spending a lot of its funding on personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and disinfecting supplies for employees and volunteers.

Secondly, the organization has experienced a sharp decline in volunteers-- mostly drivers-- amid the crisis. Director Audley McGill said the number of volunteers has dropped from about 150 to 75.

McGill said many of the volunteers, who have taken a break from deliveries, are senior citizens who don't want to take any chances with the virus spreading.

"It's understandable. You have COVID going on," McGill said. "It's really difficult because of the situation with being out here in the community. You don't know what's going on."

Some of the volunteer drivers are now accepting extra stops on their routes to help ensure the seniors get their meals. Other staff members are also stepping up.

"That includes myself. I'm out here now. Our goal is to make sure every single senior gets a meal no matter what the circumstance is," McGill said.

McGill said Mobile Meals is also preparing for a potential spike in demand for hot and frozen meals due to stay-at-home advisories issued by all three counties.

"A lot of seniors are not coming out. It's getting worse. It's not getting better," he said.

Glenn Pelfrey, who has been delivering meals for Mobile Meals for 23 years, said he understands the reluctance by some to get involved.

"The number on TV of the coronavirus just rising, it's scary," Pelfrey said.

However, Pelfrey, 64, feels he's taking the right precautions by changing gloves frequently, always wearing a mask, and social distancing when he arrives at a home.

"I'm confident I'm doing the best I can to protect myself so I'm not too bad. I'm not too fearful," he said.

McGill said the deliveries take on extra importance during the pandemic because wellness checks are also part of the routine.

"Sometimes we're the only face that they see all day long," McGill said.

Clients will receive extra meals later in the week because deliveries will not be made on Thanksgiving.

Anyone in need of meals or interested in volunteering is asked to contact Mobile Meals at 330-376-7717.