Service workers brave bitter cold to deliver meals to elderly and disabled

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Making sure the elderly and disabled are warm and safe is especially important during single-digit cold.

In the Waldo neighborhood, Meals On Wheels volunteers are braving the arctic blast to perform this valuable service.

Shepherd's Center Central has a good supply of volunteers to deliver hot meals and check on the elderly and disabled. But in other areas of the metro, Meals On Wheels has to pay drivers to perform this service and that causes costs to soar significantly.

Greg Lear is one of a dedicated group of volunteers outside in the bitter wind chills Thursday checking up on about half a dozen clients.

Lear says he can't leave meals on porches. He has to knock on the door and deliver them in person. This allows him to make sure that the homes are heated and that shut-ins seem physically and emotionally well.

He spends about an hour outside in the frigid conditions.

"It's brutal," said Deb Dickinson, manager of volunteers at the center. "Getting in and out of cars, getting in and out of cold, standing and waiting for these folks to come to the doors. Some of them don't move very fast and that front porch can feel pretty cold. But I've never had a driver cancel because of cold."

If volunteers detect that a furnace or home heater is not working, they can call a social worker who will seek help for elderly people living alone. The same is true if they notice other red flags, like wearing the same clothes, not taking care of personal hygiene, or any behavior differences. Again, a social worker can seek out help for folks shut in during weather that can be dangerous for them.

It's a challenge to try to keep these meals hot during near zero cold. They are delivered in insulated coolers and drivers package each meal in an insulated bag.

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