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Charles City Meals on Wheels looking for more volunteer drivers

  • Apple Valley Assisted Living residents in Charles City play bingo. Photo submitted

  • Apple Valley Assisted Living residents in Charles City play cards. Photo submitted

By Kelly Terpstra,

Swiss chicken breast, spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread, sweet potatoes, asparagus and a frosted brownie.

Those are just some of the nutritious menu items that have been delivered by the Charles City Meals on Wheels this week.

The non-profit delivery service, which caters to many elderly residents in Charles City, continues to provide its much-needed program amidst an uncertain climate created by the coronavirus.

“The Meals on Wheels program has continued on. We’ve just taken a lot of preventative measures to make sure that we’re being very careful and we’re following all COVID guidelines,” said Appley Valley Assisted Living CEO and Administrator Terri Cosselman.

Apple Valley started providing the meals Monday through Friday starting in January 2019. Prior to that, the Floyd County Medical Center made the meals and helped organize the deliveries. The hospital has been involved with Meals on Wheels in some form or fashion since 1987.

“We are funded by the money we get from donations and then the people paying for the meals,” said Carol Johnson, dietary manager at FCMC who has been involved with Meals on Wheels for more than 20 years. “We are not government funded, whatsoever,” she said.

Johnson said drivers are asked to be healthy and to spray sanitizer or disinfectant on the floors of their vehicles where the food sits in coolers before and after each delivery. Recipients of the food are asked to put a chair, table or TV tray by their front door or entryway before delivery to avoid close contact.

“We just drop the meal and go,” said Johnson.

Cosselman said Apple Valley Staff, wearing protective gear including masks, take the temperatures of the drivers before they load their vehicle. Meals are distributed outside the doors of the Apple Valley facility in a converted holding area, she said.

“We are happy to serve as many seniors as possible,” Cosselman added.

The Charles City Meals on Wheels delivered almost 9,000 meals in 2019, according to its Facebook page. That’s an average of almost 750 meals each month.

“We’re very willing to help out with many, many more meals as long as we can get the drivers,” said Cosselman.

Able-bodied drivers are another top priority for Meals on Wheels. Johnson said eight churches in the area, along with First Citizens Bank and First Security Bank, help provide volunteer drivers. Organizations like Rotary and the Charles City YMCA also help, but several more could benefit the program.

“We do need more drivers. Eighty to ninety percent of my drivers are over 70 or 80,” said Johnson. “I need the newly retired people.”

Meals on Wheels provides on average about 30 to 50 meals a day. Cosselman said that number could increase by 20 or even 30 more meals if the number of drivers increases.

Johnson said it only takes about an hour to deliver each one of the seven designated routes in Charles City. There are about eight meals dropped off on each route.

“That’s what will sit comfortably in the cooler,” said Johnson.

With the closure of the Charles City Senior Center because of COVID-19 mitigation orders, more senior citizens are inquiring about getting meals delivered to their home. The senior center provided noon meals prior to its temporary closure.

The price for a meal to be delivered by Meals on Wheels is $6, but Johnson said recipients who meet low-income guidelines will have a reduced cost.

Johnson also said an additional freezer was picked up this week so more food can be stored to fix and prepare the meals if the need arises.

Johnson encouraged anyone who might want to utilize the handy dandy way to get food brought to their doorstep to just call.

“If there’s a need out there with the Senior Center closing, if people want to they can just give us a call. We’ll work on adding them on,” Johnson said.

Earlier this month when COVID 19 rules were taking effect, Meals on Wheels discontinued its service for one day.

“There was a lot of concern the one day that we stopped. We had a lot of calls,” Johnson said. “They didn’t know what they were going to do for sure. All we could do is apologize and say that we were doing everything we could. We were lucky that it was just the one day.”

Cosselman runs three other Apple Valley Assisted Living centers in the area, in Osage, Hampton and Clear Lake. The Charles City facility is the only one that makes meals for deliveries, which are prepared along with meals for the center’s residents.

Prospective drivers or anyone seeking more information about the Meals on Wheels program can call Johnson at (641) 228-6830.