JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — It’s not easy for Mike Jack to be hundreds of miles away from his 90-year-old mother.
What eases his worry for her is he knows there are people who check on her at least every other day to make sure she has food, her prescriptions, and other necessities.
“My mother lives in a small town,” he said. “It makes a huge, huge difference. My wife and I are 900 miles away. (My mother) has a support system.”
Jack’s mother is a client of a program made up of volunteers who deliver meals and run errands for her. He wanted to start something similar in Burnet County.
The result is the Groceries to Go program, which will depend on volunteers to deliver food and other needed items to homebound Meals on Wheels and food bank clients in Burnet County.
Volunteers will either go to area food banks to pick up bags of food or grocery stores to purchase food for their clients. Those who purchase their food from a grocery store will provide the volunteers with a shopping list and a form of payment.
Jack has volunteered with Meals On Wheels for 10 years. He has met and befriended many of the people to whom he delivers meals, so he sees firsthand their needs.
Groceries to Go is designed to meet those needs, but the program needs volunteers.
Those volunteers must be able to pass a background check; have a current driver’s license, proof of insurance, and reliable transportation; and be willing to commit to the program once or twice a month for one-three hours per session. Interested drivers should call Jack at (830) 798-2406 or Jamie McAfee at (512) 715-9717. McAfee is the site manager for the Meals on Wheels program in Burnet County, a division of Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties.
The work for the volunteers is simple.
“It’s a couple of extra bags and another transaction,” McAfee said. “I do that for a couple in Burnet. They give me money that lasts the month. I buy what they need when they tell me. Once I run out of money, I go back to them and give the receipts.”
After volunteers are chosen, they’ll meet with the clients to get to know each other, Jack said.
“Once you establish a relationship with the clients, they invite you (into their homes),” Jack said. “(The couple in Burnet) allow me to get groceries and look at other things like their air conditioner and heater. It gives you an opportunity to help people who need help. Once you develop a relationship, they ask you and allow you to help them.”
McAfee said volunteers who have daily or weekly interaction with clients are invaluable because the volunteers can tell her about the clients’ needs or changes in living conditions. She recalled one client who was turning his one Meals On Wheels lunch into three meals because he couldn’t leave his home and doesn’t speak because of other health issues. So he was unable to communicate the great need he had.
“(Our lunches) aren’t designed for that,” she said. “Had we had a similar program (to Groceries to Go), we would have an extra pair of eyes checking on them. We have quite a few who are homebound and who don’t have family nearby. We could set something up so that their parents are taken care of.”
Jack is very happy volunteering with Meals On Wheels but was looking at other volunteer opportunities, so he’s thrilled to be the first Groceries to Go helper.
“It makes a huge, huge difference (for my mother),” he said. “It makes a huge difference for her. Her attitude is much more positive.”
WHO’S ELIGIBLE FOR GROCERIES TO GO?
Meals On Wheels clients: Meals on Wheels provides meals to people ages 60 and older who can’t drive. Interested individuals who want to receive a meal should call Jamie McAfee at (512) 715-9717 to schedule an interview.
“There are no income requirements,” McAfee said. “It’s needs-based, not income-based. It’s for those who need a meal and can’t get one for themselves.”
Food bank clients: Eligible clients of The Helping Center in Marble Falls, LACare in Burnet, and Joseph’s Food Pantry in Granite Shoals must be 55 and older and homebound but can create their own meals.