AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Meals on Wheels of Amarillo has been around for 51 years providing hot meals to the homebound elderly. On top of providing those meals, volunteers with Meals on Wheels also provide daily safety checks to those they deliver meals to.
“We serve some of the most vulnerable people in town,” said Meals on Wheels of Amarillo Executive Director Susie Akers.
According to Meals on Wheels of Amarillo, the non-profit was organized by twelve local churches in 1971 with 25 volunteers serving 14 elderly people and today the program feeds over 350 elderly recipients through the support of over 450 volunteers.
Akers said the following criteria make someone eligible for Meals on Wheels:
- Be at least 60 years old
- Be homebound
- Limited to no driving
- Be unable to prepare well-balanced meals
- Not have anyone in the household who is able to prepare meals
- Clients must live within the city limits of Amarillo
The meals are prepared at BSA and Northwest Texas Hospital and volunteers that are delivering meals pick the meals up from either hospital that route is assigned to.
“We just added another route a couple of weeks ago, so we have 38 routes all over town within the city limits of Amarillo,” said Akers.
The meals are ready to be picked up at 10:30 a.m. and the routes are in one concentrated area, with a maximum of ten meals on a route.
Akers said that the meals are delivered Monday through Friday and it is just the noon meal.
“There is a protein, a stretch, a vegetable, dessert, bread, and whole or skim milk if they want it,” said Akers.
Akers said that a lot of times the Meals on Wheels meal is the only meal that someone gets all day.
One volunteer, Dierk Milum who has been delivering meals since 2007 said this is a way to give back and it means a great deal to the people who receive the meals.
“It’s not only just about a meal, it’s about being able to talk to somebody. Somebody coming by and saying hi or somebody coming by and looking like they care. And I think they enjoy that,” said Milum.
Akers added the volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization.
“We don’t pay any of them, they use their own cars, their own gas. We don’t take any government money, we never have in our 51 years, so we rely on the generosity of our community to help keep going,” said Akers.
Currently, Akers said there is a waitlist for Meals on Wheels, but she says with more volunteers they can add another route to take care of those individuals and get rid of that waitlist.
Akers added that during the holiday season, they do see an increase.
“What usually happens, if you have family and say they are out of town, which a lot of our client’s family are and they come home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and if you have been talking to mom and dad or grandma and grandpa over the phone, they probably sound ok and you probably thinking that everything is ok, but you get home and see that everything is not ok…so it’s the family that is calling us after they get home and we see we need some help, mom and dad need some help,” said Akers.
In 2019, Meals on Wheels of Amarillo moved into their new building at 7550 Outlook Drive near the hospitals and Akers said it’s been a big help.
“It’s so much more convenient, it’s so nice, and volunteers can drop by here now. We are handy, they can drop by if they don’t understand something about their route if they need new bags to help them carry the meals, we are right here,” said Akers.
In addition to helping the elderly, a year ago Meals on Wheels started the AniMeals program to deliver dog and cat food to those in the program.
“We are delivering separately from the food dog food and cat food on the first of every month and enough dog food and cat food for the clients, hopefully, it will be enough to get them through the whole month,” said Akers.
They have over 100 dogs and cats in the program and at the beginning of the year, Akers said they are partnering with Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine to provide free basic vet care to all client pets.
Information and applications can be found on the Meals on Wheels website.