As more seniors isolate, volunteers ensure they continue getting hot meals to their door

On a sunny Friday morning, March 20, retirees Keri and Dan Barham arrive at the Greater Spokane Meals on Wheels office in Spokane Valley to hear the latest instructions on how to safely deliver meals to seniors in need.

Usually, they and other volunteers gather inside for some social time and coffee before a van arrives with hot meals for their route. Today, everyone stands outside in the parking lot, socializing in small groups of two or three in the fresh air.

If requested, the volunteers will drop off meals at the door, step back and wait for the senior to come pick it up. An essential part of their service is making sure people are OK. If no one answers, someone will call the senior or their emergency contact.

The Barhams have been volunteering with both the Greater Spokane location, which serves much of the county, and the downtown Spokane Meals on Wheels program, for the last two years or so.

"When I retired I wanted to find some way to give back," Keri says. So two to three times a week, Dan drives, and Keri walks the hot meals up to seniors' front doors.

Meals are delivered hot, Monday through Friday, with frozen meals dropped to some people on Fridays so they can be warmed up over the weekend.

"It's nice to meet some of the older people that you may be the only person they see all day," Keri says. She usually makes sure to chat for a minute at the door with those who want it.

"But every stop is pretty brief now," she says.

She and her husband still plan to volunteer for the time being, but they're also somewhat nervous about going out too much with increasing concerns about coronavirus spread.

Before this, Greater Spokane Meals on Wheels was serving 1,000 hot meals each day between home delivery and congregate meal sites, which are now temporarily closed, says CEO Jeff Edwards. That number could actually go up as more seniors stay home and sign up.

"We view our services as essential so we cannot shut down," Edwards says.

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...