I would bet that many of you are taking inventory of blessings and privileges this week. In all sincerity, the MOWGLV extended family—of which you are a large part—are near the top of my list. We do great work here because you make it possible.

Thank you so very much to all of you for your commitment to our clients. We are most grateful for your support, in whatever capacity you give it, whether it’s donating, delivering meals, cleaning out route sheet binders, helping with the grocery program, writing birthday cards, helping in the kitchen, coordinating meal pick up sites, putting together our “welcome” bags for clients, etc. That is a long and impressive, though a little shorter thanks to COVID.

One of the reasons that we received the 2020 Non-Profit of the Year Award this month was because of our incredible accomplishment in maintaining non-stop deliveries during COVID. We are very proud of this—as you should be too! I’d like to make sure that we can maintain this streak and, to that end, I’m going to reiterate some of our protocols and the reasons behind them. As COVID cases surge and more social restrictions are put in place, it feels like a good time to regroup on this topic.

Meal pickup sites—There is really no change here. We are continuing to maintain the regimen we have at all pick up sites. For clarification:

  1. Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth at all times.
  2. Wait patiently in line, and leave some social distance between you and the next volunteer.
  3. Unless you have been cleared by staff, DO NOT assist the driver in unloading meals. I understand that our volunteers like to get on the road ASAP but we have this rule in place in order to maintain social distance. I want my staff protected as much as I do you. I ask that you be patient and wait for the driver to do his job of unloading. This won’t add more than another 5 minutes to the process.

Clients and masks—We don’t require clients to wear masks when accepting a meal from a volunteer. The health department has said that the quick handoff of the meal, and the fact that the volunteer is wearing a mask, does not present a risk of virus transmission. Until I receive different guidance from the health department, we will not make this a condition for a meal recipient.

Clients report “not feeling well”— We love when you report this information. Our “wellness check” is the value add to our program and one that you all perform beautifully. If a client says that to you, please make a note on the route sheet. If it’s urgent, call the office. The volunteers who clean out the route sheet binders will get that information to staff who will follow up. Trust me. They do. Our Director of Client Services called the two clients that a volunteer recently flagged. When we can’t reach the client, we call their emergency contact. If they don’t feel well, don’t assume it’s COVID. Remember that our clients are dealing with several chronic diseases, or mental health issues, and that “not feeling well” can have any number of causes.

Route sign-ups—You’ve seen several emails from Melinda lately pleading for volunteers to sign up. The amazing thing is that the routes always get filled—bless you! I’d like to preserve Melinda’s sanity. If you could check the online scheduler a bit more regularly and sign up for openings, that would enable her to sleep better at night. I think what’s happening is that folks think we’ll shout out if we need you, which we do. We know you are out there ready to serve because you step up. If we could step up a couple days earlier, I think Melinda could breathe a little easier. (Of course, we understand last minute cancellations due to health and other personal issues).

COVID exposure—There are two subgroups here:

  1. Clients: When a client reports that they have been exposed, or have tested positive, we tell them that they need to plan for meals to be left outside their door and suggest that they follow up with their health care provider. A delivery instruction will be in the route sheet binder.
  2. Volunteers: We have been thrilled with how you all manage this one and know that you take this seriously. We have had a few reports of volunteers who have been exposed to the virus and need to quarantine. I have no doubt that this might increase in the coming weeks due to the surge. Please continue to navigate safely in the community and give us as much notice as you can if you need to cancel a shift.

Contacting staff—This is a tough one because we love to hear from you. I am also aware of the culture of caring that we share here, and that it exists for us as much as for our clients. If you have information to pass on (that doesn’t require immediate attention—such as a delivery issue), I would ask that you email us: melindam@mowglv.org, dawns@mowglv.org, or vickc@mowglv.org. Those are probably the three emails you would use the most. If Melinda gets an email about a topic that involves someone else here, she can forward the email. I’m not kidding when I say that staff spend almost half of the day on the phone. As I said earlier, if you have non-urgent information about a client on delivery, please put the note on the route sheet.

Apartment buildings—Due to the surge in COVID infections, please know that we are actively working on an alternate delivery plan for these multi-unit buildings. If you have a building like this on your route, you will see instructions on the route sheet if you need to do something different than deliver to a client’s door. The extent of cooperation by building management varies. Some managers are helpful, while others, not so much. We will do our best to make this as safe as we can for you.

Finally…(hooray! She’s finished!)—My decision-making at this time is focused on balancing the health and safety interests of clients, volunteers, and staff. I have taken juggling lessons in the past (for real), but not with anything so important as the welfare of people I care about. I am relying on the public health experts for guidance. At any time, if you feel that our protocols leave you feeling less than comfortable, we understand if you need to pull back from volunteering at this time. You won’t hear any judgment or shame from us and we will be thrilled to have you back when you feel comfortable.

From all of us here at Meals on Wheels of the Greater Lehigh Valley, we hope that your Thanksgiving is safe, healthy, and meaningful.