KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Typically Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan makes 40,000 deliveries a month to senior citizens in the area, said Abby Finn.
However, since the governor's stay-at-home order went into effect on March 24, they made 10,000 more deliveries that month, she said.
“We expected an increase,” said Finn, who’s the nutrition program manager with Senior Services of Southwest Michigan, a partner of Meals on Wheels. “I think that we couldn’t really grasp how much though until it kind of started happening.”
Finn said they serve 800 senior citizens in both Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties.
However they've seen a 'drastic' increase in their number of clients, she said.
Typically each winter they get about 40 new clients. But when the order was announced, they got 145 new clients, she said.
Finn believes it's because many seniors have decided to self-isolate in their homes to be safe.
"It’s kind of crazy that we’re delivering toilet paper," Finn said during an interview with FOX 17 on Thursday. "But we had the donation come in so we decided that we would start distributing that as well. Pet food too. We’re able to meet that need right now."
And, as the demand for food increased, so has their volunteer staff, she added.
When the pandemic first broke out, they ‘onboarded’ 85 news volunteers, she said. And each one has been trained on how to deliver meals while practicing social distancing.
“Even with contactless delivery, we still have to be sure that everyone’s safe and that they’re OK,” Finn said. “So what we’re kind of doing is we’re knocking [on doors], and either getting a visual confirmation through a wave in the window or having them just call out that they’re home, that they’re there.”
She said volunteers then hang the bag of food on their doorknobs.
Additionally, volunteers have been making ‘friendly reassurance’ courtesy calls to senior citizens, she said.
It gives both seniors and volunteers the social interaction that they've been missing during the pandemic, she said.
“The clients I know are so thankful that they kind of have us to look too in this time,” Finn said. “It’s just really good to be able to keep them feeling safe and assured that they’re going to be OK at home.”