JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- "Good morning, Meals on Wheels!" cheers Linda McDonald as she visits her first home for the day.
She and her husband Robert are delivering two things, a warm greeting and a warm meal.
Something that simple makes the day for more than 900 senior citizens in Duval County.
"Many times we are the only people a person gets to see for a day," tells Linda.
The couple has been delivering for Meals on Wheels for about five months. They got involved when other drivers had to drop out of the program.
So what is putting the brakes on deliveries?
"We have seen a number of volunteers and volunteer drop sites drop off in the last six months to a year because of gas prices," says Nicole Kirkpatrick the Meals on Wheels program director with Aging True-Community Senior Services.
The pain at the pump is a thorn in the side of volunteers, they all have to pay for their own gas when they do deliveries. According to gasbuddy.com, the price of gas in Jacksonville one year ago was $3.46. Now it is an average of $3.75.
"I know there have been many (volunteers) that were doing three or four times a month or twice a week and have had to cut back," says Linda.
For the trucks owned by Meals on Wheels that deliver food to the drop points throughout the county, gas is costing the nonprofit around $4,000 a month. Kirkpatrick says the majority of funding they get is for food costs, not operating costs.
In the last four years, Kirkpatrick says the operating budget has been reduced by 30,000 meals annually. During this same period, the waiting list for meals on wheels has doubled in size.
With a waiting list of over 600 people in Duval County alone, the main concern is that as gas prices rise, volunteer numbers will fall.
Meals on Wheels says no matter what the price at the pump may be, they will get meals out to the hungry. But the waiting list will continue to grow if they don't get more volunteers like Robert and Linda McDonald.
"It just makes you feel good knowing you are doing something good for someone else," tells Robert.
First For You, if you would like to help Meals on Wheels in Duval County there are two different ways.
On October 9th, Meals on Wheels is having its 22nd Annual Golf Classic hosted by Josh Scobee of the Jacksonville Jaguars at Hidden Hills Country Club. There will be a live auction, silent auction and raffle in addition to the golf. Meals on Wheels is looking for players, sponsors and volunteers for the event. Here is a link to find out more about the event: http://www.agingtrue.org/events-golf-classic.html or call 904-807-1203.
You can also make tax-deductible donation to Meals on Wheels by calling this number 904-807-1203.
First Coast News