A DIFFICULT DECISION
Ideally, we at Meals on Wheels of Lancaster, we would love it if the roads were clear ever day and all of our meal deliveries went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, the weather is not always on our side, an wintry weather has the potential to disrupt our deliveries. There is a web of complicated factors that drive our decision to stay open on certain days throughout this winter.
At Meals on Wheels of Lancaster, we serve an expansive geography: our volunteers drive across most of the county. We serve the city streets of Lancaster, but the more rural Willow Street area might not be as plowed or as safe to drive after a winter storm. We have also merged with other branches of Meals on Wheels over the years. Our New Holland Branch may experience difficulties with the road conditions or their ability to find volunteers in a different way than our main Lancaster location.
Our main focus in every decision around closing revolves around the safety of our clients and our volunteers. Sometimes when the forecast calls for snow, but we choose to remain open, some of our volunteers choose not to drive. That is okay! We don’t want our volunteers to feel uncomfortable or unsafe while delivering meals, and we have a handful of substitution drivers with 4-wheel drive ready to fill in!
The hundreds of home bound individuals relying on Meals on Wheels are a great driving factor for our decision to close. Not only do most of these individuals receive most of their daily nutrition from our deliveries, but 32% of our clients do not experience any social interaction on an average day other than their Meals on Wheels Volunteer. Even more, on especially cold days (like this past Thursday which dipped into the single digits) we want our volunteers to be visiting our clients to make sure they are alright. The cold can ice over walkways, making even one step outside extremely dangerous for those prone to falls. The cold can burst pipes and break heating systems. We want to make sure our clients are safe.
One very important strategy to keep our clients from starving if we are unable to deliver meals is the creation and delivery of emergency meals. Fully shelf stable, these emergency meals are delivered out to our clients throughout the winter months in case of a Meals on Wheels closing. If our clients are equipped with their emergency meals, we feel more comfortable closing than if we did not know how our clients would be able to eat that day.
HOW TO KNOW
Often, on cold and Wintry days, we get a lot of calls from clients asking if we are open or not, wondering if they can count on us to deliver their lunch and dinner. We post our cancellations and delays on WGAL’s Website at www.wgal.com/weather/closings and on our website at www.mealsonwheelsoflancaster.org. Please check out our Facebook page for updates and additional information about our services: www.facebook.com/lancastermow.
Clients who do not have access to the internet request for us to call them if there is a closing. Volunteers are emailed or called individually in the case of a closing. If there is ever any doubt, you can call our office to check.
Winter weather can make it difficult to complete our mission. But the diligence and loyalty of our staff and volunteers as well as improved communication and planning allows us to keep serving our community. Last year, we only had to close 6 times all winter. We are proud to be able to provide a reliable service to our clients as we deliver more than a warm meal, but a warm smile and care as well.