Volunteer organizations ramp up efforts amid COVID-19 outbreak

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Volunteer organizations are ramping up efforts to help out the most vulnerable population amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Leaders from two groups are mobilizing volunteers in order to best serve the public.

During a time of uncertainty, many people have made a mad dash to stock up on groceries. However, there are some people who simply cannot. Barbara Umber, Executive Director of Homebound Meals and Andrew Hoffman, Executive Director of Neighborlink Fort Wayne, are working to make sure the elderly and those in poverty have hot meals every day.

Delivering hot food is nothing new for the volunteers at Homebound Meals of Fort Wayne, but the COVID-19 Pandemic has created a new set of challenges.  

On average 250 meals are delivered by volunteers daily – many of whom are retired. Umber said delivery drivers are down 35 percent because some are considered high risk if they were to contract COVID-19. Others live with someone who is.  

“If you are living with someone who is aged or in one of the demographics that could easily catch this, you know you don’t want to bring it home to them,” said Umber. “I would like to give a shout out to Neighborlink because they came in like a knight on the horse and are trying to supplement the drivers who can’t drive.” 

Neighborlink volunteers have made it their mission to help senior citizens, people with disabilities and low-income families get through the most trying times. For Hoffman, collaborating with Homebound Meals was a no-brainer.  

“In the most immediate need, we are going to be responding to those that don’t need one on one interaction,” said Hoffman. “We’ll do our best to try to figure out how to get things delivered or meal prepped.”

As the health crisis continues to evolve, every day looks different. Volunteers with Homebound Meals are adapting.  

“We use to hand the meals right to the clients,” Umber said. “It was more of a personal thing. But what we’re having to do now, today, tomorrow and the next day is delivering coolers and ice packs so there is no contact.” 

While meals are typically delivered during the week, the organization is already looking at the possibility of weekend delivery.  

“Historically we didn’t worry about the weekends to much because of churches and family and neighbors,” she said. “It’s far easier for them to help people on the weekends than it is during the week.” 

Umber encourages everyone to just be a good neighbor. 

“Look around your neighborhood, check on the elderly,” she said. “Check on the low-functioning adults. These are the people who are going to get hit the hardest because they don’t have options. They couldn’t run out to Walmart and stock up on whatever. Sometimes its just as simple as making a big pot of soup or a big pot of stew and sharing. “ 

If you would like to help Homebound Meals click here. Neighborlink also has more information on ways to help people on their website.

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