San Antonio’s Meals on Wheels changes delivery policies in response to coronavirus by Vince Davis
Before his lunch arrived on Wednesday at his Northwest Side home, Faustino E. Flores took a break from the blitz of news about germs, washing hands and self-quarantines.
Sitting in a hard, white plastic chair outside in the fresh air, he was enjoying feeding Kitty, one of the neighborhood pets. Satisfied, the dark brown cat with black stripes sprawled at his feet.
Forrest Myane, from Meals on Wheels San Antonio, knocked on the gray, backyard gate and set down a plastic bag heavy with food on a cabinet — several feet away from him. Whereas Myane previously would have given him a friendly handshake, she greeted him from the social distance that the coronavirus pandemic now requires. She inquired about his health and explained about the recent changes in meal deliveries.
He said he couldn’t believe the recent turn of events.
“It’s terrible,” Flores, 81, said. “It’s like a movie or something.”
Social distancing is one of several changes the nonprofit organization has implemented in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Meals on Wheels has suspended face-to-face client intakes and reassessments and volunteers will call on meal recipients twice a week instead of daily, Monday-Friday.
Staff members are screening new clients by phone for quicker meal service. Other changes include delivering two additional meals in case of interrupted service, providing extra boxes of refrigerated or
shelf-stable foods and hanging meals on door knobs instead of having direct contact.
CEO Vinsen Faris has been an “across the threshold guy” for more than 30 years with Meals on Wheels. He said being a people person and a hugger, he found it hard to tie the meal to a door handle rather than
handing a meal to a client.
But he said even as staff and volunteers stayed 6 feet from clients, the safety and wellness checks, the friendly hellos and reporting concerns about clients were still in place.
On lasthe joined staff members and volunteers in delivering more than 6,000 meals on a day when meals aren’t normally delivered. Because of their clients’ circumstances, many are homebound, unable
to go to a store and are already, in essence, self-quarantined.
“The idea is to get as much food into the homes as we can get while we can still get there,” he said. “We know that if elderly people are eating they will be in better shape to withstand whatever hits them.”
He said that many clients have told their children and grandchildren not to worry about them, but to take care of themselves. Faris said it’s pretty moving to see the clients recognizing, and appreciating, that his group is doing everything they can to keep them safe as long as they can.
He said his only concern is that the practice of keeping a physical distance will become standard procedure and volunteers won’t be able to revert to their old ways.
The nonprofit is accepting donations to buy extra food and supply boxes. For more information go to www.mowsatx.org
Myane said the visits have kept some people up to date with current events.
“It’s remarkable many don’t know what’s going on,” she said.
One of her last stops was at Celestine Barcenas’ neighborhood where professions of faith were on display in several places.
Two houses away, a sign hung above the porch reading, “Jesus is Love.”
Myane placed the bag of food for Barcenas on a metal chair across from a wooden sculpture of Jesus.
Barcenas, a four-year client, opened her screen door and thanked Myane for delivering her lunch. When asked if the 80-year-old client was concerned about the disease, Barcenas replied, “If you’re going to
get it, mija, you’re going to get it.”
Barcenas said she enjoys visits from volunteers, and the meals mean she doesn’t have to cook.
“They all do a good job,” she said, “and the food is good.”
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