Meals on Wheels: Program in danger without more drivers

Contributing writer

A non-profit agency that aims to put food on local residents’ plates has a simple need – drivers to deliver those staples.

“We so need drivers, at least five, in order for us to be able to supply those meals,” said Jan Graham, acting chairman of the Oil City Meals on Wheels program. “Otherwise, we can’t do this.”

The Oil City service, established as a non-profit and all-volunteer organization in 1974, provides meals to 20-plus customers who rely on the delivery of meals three days a week.

The system is simple – one hot meal and one sack lunch delivered at noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to a resident’s home.

The meal cost is $24 a week and there are no financial eligibility or age requirements to use the service.

While the meal costs often exceed the payments, the Meals on Wheels volunteers usually find a way to pay for the food, prepared by a contractor who works out of the American Legion hall on Riverside Drive.

“We are always looking for grants and the community helps, too,” said Graham. “We handle that.”

What is not so easy to remedy is a lack of drivers needed to pick up the prepared food and deliver it to residents.

It’s not ‘complicated’

The chore is not a complicated one, said Graham.

“You pick up meals for a few people at 10:30 a.m. at the Legion hall, get a list of who is receiving them and drop them off for the noon meal,” she explained. “The deliveries are all within an eight-mile radius and it takes about an hour.”

Although some volunteer drivers sign up to deliver several times during a month, the only requirement is that a driver help out once a month.

“It’s only an hour or an hour and a half a month,” said Graham. “We have 16 drivers now but that’s not enough. Our biggest need is for drivers and there is no age limit.”

A dwindling customer base

A decade ago, the Oil City Meals on Wheels was providing meals to 65 clients each week. That base has dropped considerably and numbers “in the 20s now,” said Graham.

“We can always use more customers. Anyone is eligible. They just need to call and ask us to help them with meals,” said Graham.

More information on volunteering as well as signing up for the program is available by contacting Graham on weekdays at (814) 676-8240.