Laois town's Meals on Wheels crew keep on motoring during Covid-19

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Laois town's Meals on Wheels crew keep on motoring during Covid-19

The public has rallied behind Portarlington Social Services as they continue to deliver Meals on Wheels to elderly and people living alone during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sweet treats, masks and knitted ear savers are among the donations as well as cash to help keep the show on the road.

Ann Dunne is secretary of the committee, which is operating the Meals on Wheels with a bare minimum of staff to reduce risk of spreading the virus.

“The public have been so good to us. Between donations of money, people making desserts for us to send out, homemade masks, gloves and treats for our elderly, which they were delighted with,” she said.

At Easter the staff of Centra clubbed together to buy every client an Easter egg, and punnets of grapes for diabetic people, while florist Pat Cooper donated a plant for every home.

“Some said it was like Christmas for them. One man, his daughter rang Centra to tell them he rang her crying to say he had got an Easter egg,” she said.

Lorraine Weldon has managed to raise €555 for the service by setting up a GoFundMe page and asking people to donate as little as €1 to Portarlington Meals on Wheels instead of giving her a gift for her birthday.

“To all my family and friends for my birthday this year I don't want any presents. For us to get through this crisis happy and healthy will be all I want.

“During this crisis this service is needed more than ever. The commitee are trying to provide food and social supports to elderly clients, while at the same time having to adhere to social distancing protocols, which grinds against the spirit of the service,” she said.

Last week the Spar shop sponsored all meals for a week.

“All the staff here at Spar Portarlington including the store owner Tom make no secret of our gratitude and admiration for the Portarlington Meals on Wheels volunteers and committee and we would like to help in any way we can. Alone in our community we can achieve so little, Together we can achieve so much,” they said.

Other kind donations include the €50 prize won by Conor Bryan for a photo competition in Garryhinch Golf Club.

The service is running since 1972, now delivering nearly 60 nourishing meals and desserts to people referred for the scheme by their doctor or community nurse.

They cook in the social services centre kitchen and deliver the hot meals every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Below: Kathleen, Anne & Jeanette getting dinners ready. 

Anne Dunne said four people normally cook including three CE staff and a supervisor employed by the committee. A loyal pool of about 70 volunteers take it in turns to drive to deliver the meals.

“On March 26 our three CE ladies were removed. We then employed two ladies who worked with us previously and they are now working away with our own lady and doing trojan work. We have just four people who deliver at present.

“We have been inundated with people offering to help and we thank everyone for their kindness,” said Anne.

The clients are doing well under the Covid-19 lockdown she said.

“They seem to be happy enough, we put the food down, knock on the door and walk back, but a few still have the doors open, they want to talk, I suppose they are lonely. We might be the only people they would see that day,” she said.

The elderly have others supporting them too at this time.

“Many have families who are checking on them but we also offer to bring shopping for them. Neighbours are very good as well,especially in the countryside,” said Anne.

Donations are always needed.

“There are a lot of fundraisers going on at the moment for national charities and for the good causes for local people, but continued funding for this service is always required,” she said.

When life returns to normal, so too will the other social activities held at the centre for senior citizens includes weekly bingo, the Christmas Party and outings. The centre is also often used by local groups for events.

“ We hope this will continue as it will bring in some income to the centre also,” said Anne.

She thanked everyone who supports the Meals on Wheels.

“Our thanks go out to the HSE, the CE workers, the PCDA, the community and local businesses for their generous support over the years. We are very thankful for people’s personal contributions to the service. 48 years on and we are still as strong as ever,” she said.