In mid-March when COVID-19 forced community restrictions, leaders of the Morgantown Area Meals on Wheels expected the nonprofit would be inundated with requests for more meals.
And it was.
But the real surprise was the more than 20 people who stepped in to volunteer, and the response from area organizations donating food and resources.
“We want to thank our Morgantown community for their giving spirit and look forward to continued service to our clients in a safe and loving manner,” said Chuck Myden, who took over as chairman of the organization’s board last month.
The help has been an invaluable shot in the arm, Myden said, but even so, the nonprofit faces a $15,000 shortfall this year due to rising costs and more clients. Since mid-March the number of daily meals prepared by the Star City kitchen has increased from 100 to 115.
One of the volunteers who started last month is Hannah Wilson, 26, a WVU medical student.
“I anticipated that Meals on Wheels would experience a need for new volunteers as some of their regular volunteers may feel unsafe going out,” Wilson said. “As a young, healthy person, it felt important to step up and meet this need.”
Wilson and other new volunteers allowed some of the organization’s older and medically vulnerable drivers to take a break.
“I am a social worker and wanted to give back to the community during this time,” said Helen P. Hartnett, professor of social work who works in WVU’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences dean’s office and is another recent volunteer. “I considered myself at lower risk than others and grocery shopped for some of the people I know who are more at risk. I wanted to do more. Helping others makes me feel connected to others.”
Community partners who helped by donating food and other resources include Empty Bowls, Pantry Plus More, the Monongalia County Commission, Your Community Foundation of North Central West Virginia, MVB Bank, WVU, Sam’s Club, Target and the Star City Council. One of the most critically important donations was the gift of face masks.
When extra precautions on food handling and delivery were put into place on March 16, the Meals on Wheels staff had trouble locating face masks for volunteers.
United Way came to the rescue.
“Yes, we do provide funding for organizations, but what people often forget is that is only one of our core goals,” said Servando R. Arredondo III, engagement manager for the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties. Arredondo began delivering masks to agencies and individuals as soon as requests came in.
“We aim to make a positive, impactful change in our communities in the areas of health and education as well,” he said. “This just happened to be one of those times that we could be impactful in the area of health.”
Volunteers and agency partners say the virus has shown how organizations and individuals can make a big difference.
“This virus has shown us weak points and allowed us to address the needs of so many in ways that weren’t being done before,” Arredondo said. “Most of all, it has shown that we are a resilient community. We are a community full of grit and we will make it through this.”
For Hartnett, her weekly delivery route reminded her of the value in helping others.
“I have learned that we need to respond to crises as a community. It is not about me, it is about us,” she said.
“Crisis like this can bring out the worst in people, or the best in people. As individuals, we get to decide which,” he said.
Meals on Wheels’ Star City kitchen cooks and packs 115 meals each day Monday through Friday. While volunteers do the delivery, donations, grants and foundations cover the costs of preparation and food. All meals are subsidized by at least $4 and as much as $9 per meal. The organization does not receive state or federal funding.
To support the MOW mission please go to www.morgantownwvmow.org