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Meals on Wheels maintains service commitment

Odessa American - 3/22/2020

Mar. 22--Meals on Wheels of Odessa is one of many organizations being put in a difficult position by the coronavirus pandemic -- maintaining the service it provides despite restrictions put in place to combat the outbreak.

Even with social distancing and bans on large gatherings becoming a fact of life, Meals on Wheels of Odessa executive director Margaret Burton said the program will continue, and has even seen an increase in business in recent days.

"We're going to serve," Burton said. "We have been fortunate to have some (funds in) reserve. We will be using our reserve.

"Meals are going out as scheduled. I have received more people wanting meals and I have put them on."

Burton said Meals on Wheels has added about 20 new clients in Ector County just this week.

"We are serving about 545 a day now," she said.

That has been paired with an increase in volunteers helping deliver meals.

"We are meeting a lot of new people who are volunteering to drive," Burton said. "Odessans are compassionate people. We are having people call in.

"I have 30 routes a day in town and Meals does two out in far west Ector County. Our volunteers don't have to go past the west loop. We have staff that does that out there."

One new restriction being placed on those delivering meals is the requirement to set meals on the doorstep, back up five feet and let the clients retrieve them. Burton said that causes a problem for clients who are not physically able to bend over and pick up a package. One solution, Burton said, is to deliver meals in restaurant-style to-go sacks, with donations of such items being welcomed.

Anyone wishing to volunteer or contribute can contact Meals on Wheels online at www.mowodessa.com or by telephone at (432) 333-6451.

Burton said a big factor in Meals on Wheels being able to sustain its service is the continued cooperation of Odessa Regional Medical Center.

"ORMC is a very good partner. They cook our meals," Burton said. "They have some restrictions on getting into the building, but they're accommodating us and life goes on."

The biggest obstacle the program is facing, Burton said, is continuing its service despite the cancellation of its annual Mudbug fundraiser.

"Without our fundraiser, that's going to hit us," she said. "We will survive.

"Odessans are generous. I truly believe they will support us because our clients help build Odessa."

Burton said other fundraising options are being considered by the program's executive board, but nothing is concrete at this time.

"We can't do Mudbug because crawfish are only good through May," she said. "They're kicking around what can we do or may we do in the fall.

"We will be trying to find some grants."

Adding to the situation is finding an available time slot for a new event.

"United Way always has a blackout for the agencies in September and October," Burton said. "None of the agencies that belong to the local United Way can do a fundraiser because that's when they do theirs. We might see a relaxing of that this year, (but) we just don't know. It's up in the air."

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