ROANOKE, Va. – As people are forced to stay inside, others are on the front lines are heading door to door to help the most vulnerable: seniors. However, they don’t have enough volunteers or donations to get them the food or supplies they need.
Every Tuesday, Libby Blankenship sees the same friendly faces. Blankenship’s been a Meals on Wheels volunteer for the past four years. Now, more than ever, she said local seniors need her help.
“I know that a lot of them are home-bound,” Blankenship said. "They don’t and can’t get out to get something to eat.”
About 10 volunteers, who are over 65 years old, had to temporarily stop their volunteer duties to keep their distance from others, leaving the Local Office on Aging (LOA)’s tiny staff scrambling to fill in the gaps.
“Staff are really, and volunteers, are giving a herculean effort right now,” said Ron Boyd, the LOA’s president and CEO.
The LOA serves 28 communities from Craig County to Roanoke to Covington, and they only have 39 staff members. That’s why they rely on their volunteers to deliver more than 550 hot meals every single day.
They’re also delivering emergency food boxes and paper products, but they’re having trouble meeting the demand.
“They’re limited what you can get, and you never know if a store is going to have it or not,” Boyd said.
Volunteers are following new safety protocols. They now knock on doors, hang meals on door knobs or railings and stay a safe distance away from the seniors they serve.
Blankenship said it’s not just about feeding those in need; it’s about that human connection we all need now more than ever.
“You talk about the essential things that are staying open: grocery, doctors. This, I think, is an essential service and you just can’t cut these people off," Blankenship said. "These people would really suffer if we don’t have volunteers to do it.”
The LOA recommends that anyone who wishes to help seniors in their communities, should check on their senior relatives or neighbors by calling or stopping by (and staying a safe distance away from them) to see if they need any food or medications.
To donate or volunteer, contact the LOA by checking out their website or calling: (540) 345-0451.
Donations can be dropped off at the LOA building, located at 4932 Frontage Rd NW, Roanoke, VA 24019, anytime from 8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.