IT'S A FEAST OF SHARING!
Before COVID-19 struck, Malika Kelly ran a volunteer program at H-E-B’s headquarters downtown that sent employees out every day to deliver meals to home-bound seniors.
The epidemic halted the program in March. But Kelly finally got a chance to return to service on Wednesday as one of about 25 employees of the supermarket chain to help Meals on Wheels San Antonio deliver more than 3,400 holiday meals to elderly residents.
This time would be different, Kelly acknowledged while loading boxes of food into her car at the North Side headquarters of Meals on Wheels San Antonio.S
“The fact that you can’t get really close to the seniors or really check on them, have a conversation with them, that’s what’s going to be different,” she said. “That was a big part of it, the connection you have with the elderly. It’ll be sad, quite honestly. I’ll definitely make sure I keep my distance. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone being sick.”
Now, with COVID-19 surging anew — the city reported a record 1,717 new cases the day before the volunteer event — the meal deliveries are even more critical for those whose age has made them more vulnerable to the deadly virus.
“Early on, we didn’t know what we were going to do,” said Vinsen Faris, CEO of Meals on Wheels San Antonio. “We didn’t know how long we could stay in operation. We didn’t know what the volunteer base would be. We didn’t know the spread of the disease. But we knew we had to get as much food into homes as we could.”
Instead of wrecking its mission, the virus forced the nonprofit to become more efficient and effective, Faris said. Workers now conduct assessments over the phone, enabling a more detailed picture of their clients’ nutritional needs.
“It changed us,” Faris said. “Where we used to go into the home and do the assessments of the clients — case workers would get in the kitchen, they would look in the refrigerator, look in the cupboards — now all of our assessments are virtual. Those guys were relying too much on what they saw.”
Another change: The meals are now frozen rather than hot, enabling volunteers to leave deliveries on porches to avoid endangering the elderly.
On Wednesday, the nonprofit’s usual two-meal delivery was augmented by a third holiday meal, provided by H-E-B, of turkey with stuffing and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, dinner roll, milk and dessert. To the bounty, the grocery company also added bouquets of poinsettias as bright red as its logo.
At a stop on her route, Kelly placed the fresh flowers on the front porch of a home in the King William neighborhood as Janis DeLara, 79, emerged to accept the delivery.
“Merry Christmas,” Kelly said. “And your poinsettias.”