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By Traci Chapman
With a growing need and a shrinking volunteer force, Mobile Meals director Neta Liebscher says she needs more help to keep the wheels turning.
Serving lunch to home-bound residents each Monday through Friday, the El Reno organization is a lifeline to about 200 people who count on volunteers not just for food, but also for a link to the outside world.
“Many of our people start driving and delivering, but it can become so much more,” Liebscher said. “They become people who care for each other – and sometimes our volunteer is the only person some people see that day.”
Many of the Mobile Meals cooks and drivers are – like their clients – retired. As they begin to experience their own health issues or move away, a need for new volunteers springs up. With a workforce that includes individuals in their 90s, finding new volunteers is essential to keep meals going out to residents.
Mobile Meals clients are asked to pay $2 per day to defray meal costs, although that contribution is voluntary. No one goes hungry because they don’t have funds to pay, Liebscher said.
“Some people simply don’t have the funds or family who can help them, and we’re there for them,” she said.
About 35 percent of the people receiving meals from the organization make payments. That leaves donations, memorials, grants and other gifts to fill the gaps in funds needed to keep Mobile Meals going. That help is needed now more than ever, as food prices increase, Liebscher said. It costs more than $3 per person to cover the cost of food, utilities and fuel, she said.
“Grocery prices keep rising, and it’s tough to stretch our money, but somehow we always find a way to do it,” Liebscher said.
Those who volunteer can work whatever days they can, she said, although a set schedule helps both Liebscher and the people Mobile Meals serves. Drivers are needed to begin at about 10 a.m. and are usually done by 11:15 a.m., Liebscher said.
“It’s not a huge time commitment, but it’s something that really makes a difference to people,” she said. “All it takes is a driver’s license and a giving heart.”
To volunteer or for more information about Mobile Meals, call Liebscher at 262-8623.