‘It’s the least we can do:’ Meals on Wheels needs help delivering lunches in Longview

“It’s to offset loneliness and isolation, to take pause out of our busy schedules to spend time with those that gave the most to us. These were our teachers, th
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 1:52 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2022 at 7:56 PM CDT

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - Meals on Wheels East Texas’ Longview location is in dire need of volunteers to help with meal deliveries. The pandemic caused the organization to lose volunteers all over East Texas, but Longview has not been able to recover them.

Currently, they have paid drivers and organization vehicles to get meals out. This means only 11 drivers are being utilized, leaving them with upwards of 50 meals to get to clients some days.

With so many meals and routes and only a handful of drivers, it can turn into meals being late for some clients and cutting time on intentional interactions and safety check-ins between clients and drivers.

Daniel Giddens is the lead driver of Meals on Wheels East Texas and has been with them just over a year.

“With these bigger routes, a lot of them, we are getting pretty close to crunch time on those pack times,” he said.

Giddens added that you can feel rushed some days, but he knows his priority is the client.

“Make sure that not only are you bringing them their food, but a lot of times it’s that human interaction that they really look forward to. That’s something that you can’t skimp on,” he said. “You’ve got to be there for them, they’ve got to know you’re going to consistently be there to not only give them their food, just to say hello, a quick conversation; it means a lot to these people.”

On average, Giddens said at least two to five people apply for meals each week.

“Their routes here in Longview are astronomical. Our smallest route is almost 30. We have three that are right close to 50, and we even have one route that’s almost 60,” said Miranda Asmussen, the Marketing and Public Relations Director. She said they aim to have the meals delivered between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. They serve almost 500 clients in Longview.

“It’s growing and each route, they constantly get new paperwork for new customers. I got two last week. There’s constantly people that’re becoming more and more aware of what we’re doing and the services we provide,” Giddens said. “I think it would be very beneficial to have larger numbers (of volunteers).”

Those who volunteer and use their own vehicle are able to use the mileage on your car as a tax write off.

Asmussen said it’s about a 60-to-90-minute commitment when they have enough people.

“Show up, grab your meals, go deliver, spend a moment with clients, come back, check in and you’re on with your day,” she said.

When they’ve got enough volunteers, Asmussen said the time commitment is about 60 to 90 minutes.

“It’s to offset loneliness and isolation, to take pause out of our busy schedules to spend time with those that gave the most to us. These were our teachers, they were our parents, they were our cub scout leaders, they were our dance instructors, and taking a moment to give back to them is the least we can do,” she said.

They aim to have the meals delivered between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“These clients are expecting their meal to arrive in the lunch hour. So, a lot of times they get anxious or nervous, they worry that we’re not showing up if we don’t come during that time frame,” Asmussen said. “There’s also health regulations on keeping the milk cold and keeping the meals warm, keeping the frozen meals frozen. So, it’s really crucial that those meals arrive during that time frame.”

Giddens said with volunteers he’s hopeful they can help more people. He also points out how much he gets out of it by helping.

“That spiritual word that’s going to come with this job that you’re not going to find anywhere else. You can’t put a price on it, you really can’t,” he said.

To learn more or sign up to be a volunteer, click here.