Mid-Columbia Meals On Wheels tackles high temps, inflation and rising COVID rates

RICHLAND, Wash. — “We had so many seniors really struggling,” Kristi Thien with Mid-Columbia Meals On Wheels recalled summer 2021.

It was a time when their volunteers were on high alert.

“They’re the heart and soul of what we do,” she said.

And they need more of them.

Thien said not only do Meals On Wheels volunteers deliver meals to homebound seniors, they also keep an eye out for clients.

“A volunteer who notices somethings up,” she said.

This summer, 115-degree weather isn’t in the forecast, yet.

Still, the CDC said heat can affect seniors over 65 faster than the average person.

“Well we always worry about a senior who is in extreme temperatures without support,” Thien said.

Luckily, volunteers can help clients if they notice their A/C isn’t working or they don’t have one.

Meals On Wheels has a stockpile of fans to hand out.

“Fans for pretty much any senior who needs a fan, who’s on our program, we can help get them a fan and help cool their place down,” Thien said.

Heat is just one of the many obstacles they have to overcome.

RELATED: Local organization delivers fans to seniors in need

Thien said they’re also feeling the heat of high gas prices, COVID-19 rates, and inflation at the grocery store. Recently, a board member and local church donated $1000 to reimburse volunteers for gas.

Still, Thien said their food costs have gone up by 30 percent.

“I’ve been very happy and thankful for it because it’s hard, you can’t work overtime to make extra money to pay for the extra gas money that you have to have and groceries and so forth,” Daniel Ruff relies on Meals On Wheels, “somebody has to help these older people, and Meals on Wheels fits the ticket really good,” he said.

As for the dining room, Thien said their goal is to keep it open and keep patrons healthy.

“We’ve had so many people who are so excited to be back, and you know, forming new friendships, restoring old friendships. Being isolated is not healthy either, so trying to find that right balance of keeping people safe.”

They also need more volunteers, you can learn about getting involved here.