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Meals on Wheels Westlake prepare for impacts of rising gas prices

Meals on Wheels Westlake preparing for impacts of rising gas prices
Posted at 3:57 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 19:09:24-04

WESTLAKE, Ohio — Rising gas prices are affecting everything from the everyday driver, to small businesses, rideshares, and nonprofits could be next.

Volunteer drivers for Meals on Wheels Westlake deliver 700 meals per week across five communities in Cuyahoga County.

Staff said the rising prices haven’t affected operations yet, but they are preparing for the pinch.

Transporter Rick Eberts makes deliveries two days a week.

“I take multiple routes worth of food down, I deliver it and delegate to the drivers, they do their routes, I do a route myself and then when they come back, I count off, make sure everything's good and I bring everything back here to the team. And then we unload and the process starts over again,” said Eberts.

“You're talking about a great group but a vulnerable group. A lot of them can't get out. They no longer have the facilities and so for them—it's a simple thing for us. It's a real lifeline for them.”

The nonprofit delivers 150 meals to about 80 people in Bay Village, Westlake, North Olmsted, Olmsted Township, and Olmsted Falls daily. That’s 14 routes and 70 drivers per week. They’re all volunteers, like Eberts, which means they’re all being affected by rising gas prices.

“We fuel up a lot, not to mention all the volunteers that are fueling up their own cars. So it hits the pocketbook. We don't get any money from state or federal groups. So everything hits us right in the wallet,” said Eberts.

It's not just those direct effects, the nonprofit is also thinking ahead about indirect impacts.

“We know that it's going to come down the pike with food cost, just like the supply chain hit us,” said Marketing and Community Outreach Specialist Brooke O’Donnell. “We might have to adjust and pivot and you know, look at what we're serving a little differently in order to accommodate for that. But again, a nonprofit gets hit the hardest sometimes.”

O’Donnell said while that day hasn’t yet come, they always welcome help from the community.

“Obviously monetary donations are always very, very welcome because then we can use those to fit into whatever the need is at the moment. We have schools that do food drives for us. We have people that donate knitted items for us in the wintertime, and we try to incorporate those as a gift for our recipients,” said O’Donnell. “We have schools that make cards for our recipients, a handmade card from a school-aged child on a holiday can really brighten someone's day so just like the meals, we are very appreciative of creative donations in the same way. But of course, monetary is the one that can always go the farthest.”

Fortunately, they’re not hurting for volunteers, who have continued to diligently fulfill their routes even as prices at the pump continue to climb.

“I think we'll still keep doing it. I mean, this group here is dedicated, right? And the volunteers will keep doing it and we'll find a way,” said Eberts.

More information about Meals on Wheels Westlake can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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