Homer’s Meals on Wheels program gets new Subaru after winning grant

Those who are signed up to get daily deliveries from the Homer Senior Citizens Center’s Meals on Wheels program may start seeing their food brought to their doorstep in style. The center recently received a brand new Subaru Outback for the program.

Keren Kelley, executive director of the center, applied for a grant that was giving away 50 Subarus to Meals on Wheels programs. Of those 50, two came to Alaska — one to Homer and the other to Kenai. Kelley and the Kenai Senior Center’s Kathy Romain were presented with the new Subaru outbacks on Nov. 17 at Continental Subaru in Anchorage.

Administrative Assistant Robbie Fuller said the program has been using a pickup truck to deliver meals, but that it is getting rather old. The new car will help spread out the work of food deliveries as well as come in handy on tricky roads or in the winter.

“You’ve got to have four-wheel drive getting down some of the roads that we go down, because a lot of them aren’t cleaned off and everything like that,” she said. “And also we’ve got an older truck and so … (we’ll) be able to get into more areas because now we have a truck and a car. So we’re able to service more people by having both.”

The new vehicle was put to the test Monday, when it made its first delivery to a program recipient. Homer Mayor Bryan Zak tagged along and was the one to deliver the meal to Homer resident Marilyn Prevost, 80. Prevost has lived in Homer for 73 years, she said.

The Meals on Wheels program usually uses two drivers, with an alternate, Fuller said. Food for the meals comes from the center and is prepared in its kitchen. In 2016, 3,121 meals were given out through Homer’s Meals on Wheels, she said.

“This year we’re already on pace for more than 3,100 meals to be given,” she said.

While some people signed up to get meals are homebound, others are able to get around but need the service for other reasons. Meals on Wheels does not charge recipients for meals, but a donation of $5 per meal is appreciated, according to the Homer Senior Center wesite at http://www.homerseniors.org/meals-on-wheels.

“We have some people that are homebound, some that are disabled that aren’t, you know, capable of getting out of their home for medical reasons, things like that,” Fuller said. “Also with winter coming up, you know it’s very dangerous for senior citizens to get out, so that’s a good plus to be able to sign people up that can’t do that.”

Fuller said nutrition can also become an issue sometimes when seniors live alone and are no longer cooking for multiple people.

“There’s a lot of senior citizens that live alone, and they’re not eating nutritional meals,” she said. “… They don’t make themselves the meals because of the cost plus, you know, they’re just fixing it for one person.”

The social aspect of the program is important too, Fuller said. Often times, the interaction with the Meals on Wheels delivery person might be the one interaction a homebound senior has on a given day. Fuller said it happens sometimes that a delivery person for the program finds a senior who has had an emergency or is in need of medical help.

“You’ll see that because … not only are you delivering them the meals, but you’re also checking in on them, you’re making sure they’re OK,” she said. “Plus that’s the only contact that they get on some basis is the contact that they get from the Meals on Wheels.”

Kelley said Meals on Wheels representatives have called an ambulance for a senior at least four times since she’s been at the center.

The new vehicle was donated by Subaru of America, which has supported Meals on Wheels at the national level for nine years through its annual philanthropic event, Share the Love, according to a press release. The company donates about $12 million to Meals on Wheels America, the release states.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.