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Meals on Wheels of Sarasota plans to continue deliveries, accept new homebound clients

The non-profit serves about 600 meals a day and they're willing to serve hundreds more to people who can't leave their homes.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Meals on Wheels of Sarasota is business as usual, as schools, restaurants, and stores around them close. 

Out of the hundreds of volunteers at Meals on Wheels, only about five have dropped out because of concerns related to coronavirus. "It's because our volunteers are dedicated, they're selfless and they are compassionate," said Marjorie Broughton, the executive director of Meals on Wheels of Sarasota.

"Sometimes we're one of the few contacts they (clients) have with the outside world. We could be the only people they see all day," said Bill Dueker, a four-year volunteer delivery driver with Meals on Wheels of Sarasota. "People still have to eat," he continued.

While some volunteers are concerned about the risk of contracting COVID-19, they feel helping their neighbors is more important. "It's important to me to be able to help everyone else out there," said Gary Dzuemla, a volunteer. 

Meals on Wheels of Sarasota serves about 1,000 clients a month, or about 600 meals a day. They deliver them to seniors, people with disabilities and others who are not able to leave their homes. Seniors and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to the dangerous symptoms of COVID-19. Since Meals on Wheels serves a more vulnerable population, they have made changes to protect their clients.

A new knee-operated sink and automatic soap dispenser have been added in the kitchen for no-touch hand washing, surfaces are wiped down with antibacterial cleaner every hour and a half and thermometers are being ordered to take the temperature of every staff member and volunteer before entering the building. 

Volunteers now pick up their meals outside of the building to encourage social distancing. At drop off, they place meals on the doorstep or in a cooler and then step six feet away before a client opens the door. Volunteers recently in contact with someone showing symptoms or with recent travel history to an affected area are asked not to return for 14 days.

Broughton expects more people to need the services of Meals on Wheels throughout the spread of coronavirus and she people to reach out if they need help. Meals cost $6, but accommodations can be made with proof of financial hardship. Since she expects more clients, Broughton is asking for community support in volunteers and financial donations to continue to purchase food for those who cannot make it themselves. You can learn more here.

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