DAVENPORT, Iowa — Editor's Note: This story previously stated Milestones would have to suspend the program if it could not find more drivers. The program will continue no matter what. However, it would have to resort to delivering frozen meals fewer times a week due to less drivers.
Milestones Area Agency on Aging is in dire need of delivery drivers. Many seniors who use the meal delivery service are homebound and rely on it as their primary source of food.
The nonprofit organization delivers more than a thousand meals to seniors five days a week. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought the demand for its services to an all-time high, Milestones Marketing Coordinator Mike Mathews said.
"We've had this increased demand for delivery, and more meals are going out," Mathews said. "But we haven't necessarily been able to increase the amount of drivers we have to deliver those meals. So right now, we really have a pressing need as that number (and) that demand continues to grow."
Retired teacher and Milestones meal delivery driver David Curlott said his delivery route has increased in recent months. What was once 12-15 deliveries a day has become well over 20.
Even recruiting more drivers to be on a substitute list would lighten the load on others during times they have other commitments, like doctor appointments or trips out of town.
Currently, program needs at least 10 additional drivers to work between 8:30 a.m. and noon to guarantee all of its seniors get a daily visit. Because they are midday hours, recruiting employees has proven difficult.
Due to the shortage of drivers, organization leaders said if staff contracted COVID-19 and had to take off, the program would have to resort to delivering fewer times a week.
However, the program emphasized it would do whatever it could to "continue under any circumstance" because these food deliveries mean more to the seniors than just a hot meal. They also serve as a welfare check.
"These folks look forward to seeing their drivers every day. They make friends with their drivers … In a lot of cases, these can be long-term relationships," Mathews said. "In some cases, you'll find that these seniors are isolated. They don't have a lot of contact with the outside world, especially if they're homebound. So this might be the only visitor they get all day."
These relationships serve not only the seniors but also the drivers.
"Our volunteers are rewarded with a lot of smiles," Mathews said.
If you are interested in a paid or volunteer delivery position with Milestones Agency on Aging, call 1-855-410-6222, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the organization's website.