Meals on Wheels keep rolling despite COVID-19

  • Megan Broome/The Clayton Tribune. Shannon Speed, left, and Melissa White distribute meals to elderly Rabun County residents on Monday as part of the Meals on Wheels program run by the Rabun County Senior Center. Enough meals for five days are being delivered by employees on Mondays in order to limit potential exposure of the COVD-19 virus to elderly residents.
    Megan Broome/The Clayton Tribune. Shannon Speed, left, and Melissa White distribute meals to elderly Rabun County residents on Monday as part of the Meals on Wheels program run by the Rabun County Senior Center. Enough meals for five days are being delivered by employees on Mondays in order to limit potential exposure of the COVD-19 virus to elderly residents.
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Now more than ever, the Rabun County community is coming together to support each other and serve those in need during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Meals on Wheels program, run by the Rabun County Senior Center in Tiger, is still rolling along to deliver meals to those in need. 

It provides hot meals and daily personal contact for the homebound elderly who meet the criteria for the program, according to the Rabun County government website. 

As a way to implement safety precautions, the program is operating a little differently during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Instead of meals being delivered by volunteers each day, Monday-Friday, meals for the five days are being delivered on Mondays.  

“They’re trying to protect us and them too,” said Shannon Speed, employee at the Rabun Senior Center, about why they changed distribution days. 

She said that this is a way to limit exposure to the elderly clients while still supplying them with needed food items. 

“There are some who really depend on it,” Speed said. “Without Meals on Wheels ,we don’t know where their next meal would come from.” 

Deliveries include food such as milk cartons, fruit, pudding cups, meals like Brunswick Stew, biscuits and breakfast meals, among others. 

Speed said that once the meals are delivered on Monday, staff members spend the rest of the week prepping for the following week. 

Speed said that volunteers usually deliver the meals, but employees deliver if they are not able.  And for the volunteers’ protection, employees are delivering the meals during the pandemic. 

She said that everyone at the Senior Center is pitching in to help. 

Melissa White, employee, said that the bags of food are packed and adjusted accordingly depending on any dietary restrictions that the client has. 

She said that there are five distribution routes: Clayton, Dillard/Mountain City, Chechero/Warwoman, Tiger/Bridge Creek and Lakemont. 

Rewarding experience helping others 

White said she has worked at the Senior Center since February, 2019 and her favorite part of the job is “interacting with the people.” 

Speed has been a Senior Center employee since June, 2019 and said she loves how helping someone “brightens their day.” 

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated some seniors who rely on the Rabun Transit as their sole means of transportation. 

It, as well as the Rabun Senior Center, have been closed temporarily due to the virus. 

Linda Alley, a user of Meals on Wheels, is one of those people who depends on the Rabun Transit to run errands and obtain necessities. 

Although disappointed that the transit is not operating at this time, she sends a message of hope and perseverance through these difficult times. 

“Don’t give up,” Alley said. “You have to fight.”

Wanda Henry, director of the Rabun Senior Center, said that an opening date has not yet been decided. 

“We will continue to do what we are doing and get those [meals] delivered,” Henry said. But that it “will probably be a few weeks yet [before they can open].” 

Community resources

There are certain criteria that have to be met in order to qualify for the Meals on Wheels program, with one being a referral from a physician. 

White explained that some clients buy their meals and have them delivered. 

Wanda Henry, director for the Rabun Senior Center, said that anyone interested in more information about Meals on Wheels or the Rabun Transit can contact the Rabun Senior Center at 706-782-3853.

The Rabun Senior Center is located at 2832 Old 441 South in Tiger and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. 

It offers activities such as a quilt room, a game room with two pool tables, ping pong table and numerous card or game tables, a computer lab and media room, a craft room, puzzle area, art club, exercise room, swimming pool, a dining room and a fully equipped kitchen. 

Meals are provided for seniors in the dining area from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.