published: Sunday, August 25, 2013
Meals on Wheels needs wheels
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING -- Meals on Wheels of Sebring has meals, but not enough wheels. Officials of the group say they are looking for a few good drivers.
The doldrums of summer has left the organization without its compliment of chauffeurs to take meals to those who need them.
Since the program started better than two decades ago, volunteers have delivered thousands of meals to residents in the area. It has been so successful, in fact, a second group that delivers meals in and around Avon Park has been started.
A lot of people perceive recipients to be senior citizens but Gene Fernsler, president of the group, said there are a wide array of people who benefit from the program.
"Because we don't receive any government money, we don't have any federal guidelines," he said. "So we have seniors, some people on disability and even some who have not been able to drive because of an accident or illness."
The meals are prepared by Chef Mack Gentleman at the Palms of Sebring. Drivers pick them up, put them in coolers, and take them on a route.
"It usually takes an hour or so to do a route," Fernsler said. "The longest route we have right now is 33 miles; that is absolutely the longest."
The routes go as far north as Crystal Lake and as far south as Buttonwood Bay.
Not everybody gets a meal every day. Some are on Tuesday and Thursday schedules, while others are delivered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There are no weekend deliveries.
Drivers are provided with maps as well as printed instructions for their routes so they know exactly where to go and how to get there. Some regularly scheduled drivers make a loop beginning at their homes, deliver the meals and end up at their own houses.
"We have one lady who has her own coolers. She brings those with her, loads them up, runs her route and just heads hack to the house," Fernsler said.
"We have a lot of couples that run the routes together. One drives and the other acts as a navigator so it's a lot easier that way," said Ron Lane of Positive Medical Transport.
Lane, a member of the Meals on Wheels board, has pressed one of his off-duty Positive Medical Transport ambulances into service to run routes in an effort to help bridge the gap and fill in the shortage of delivery personnel.
He suggested there might be other businesses that might want to have one of their vehicles run the mid-day routes. Both he and Fernsler said there might be some churches, clubs or other organizations that might want to sponsor some drivers to help with the effort.
"We have one church that donates $100 a month to us," Fernsler said.
In the case of for-profit businesses, there also may be tax write-off opportunities for those who donate the use of their employees and vehicles to participate in the program.
Not every driver delivers every day.
"We like to try and space it so nobody gets burned out," Fernsler said. "But I can tell you we need help on Thursdays and Fridays."
Those who wish to find out more or participate in the program can call Meals on Wheels at 402-1818.
M O W (by: Think Positive Ron - 8/26/2013)
Thanks for this story it shows real community commitment from this paper.
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