Gas prices stalling "Meals on Wheels" volunteers

Walter Peters
Walter Peters

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

KAPALAMA (KHNL) - Record high gas prices are affecting everything, but for Hawaii's senior citizens it may mean going hungry.

That's because Hawaii's "Meals on Wheels" program relies on its volunteers to get about 2,000 meals a day to seniors.

But volunteers are dropping out as pump prices rise.

It's so bad, it's choking "Meals on Wheels" and its volunteers.

Walter Peters spends his Saturdays shuttling meals to seniors. It's his passion.

"Lord only knows what their day is like and then they have someone for no reason at all show up with a smile and a package," said Peters.

"It helps because I don't have to worry about preparing lunch meal," said one senior.

Making the rounds on his route, Peters gets reimbursed about 50 cents a mile, but says a simple visit to the ill, elderly, or disabled that the program serves is priceless.

"Knock on the door boom boom how you doing. Here's your meals ok have a great week and off you go, other times you come in and find somebody with a medical condition situation. So if you weren't there maybe nobody would know," said Peters.

Locally Meals on Wheels home delivers to about 700 seniors a day. With volunteer numbers down 20-percent, less help means more people without drop-offs of food they desperately need.

"We're losing a lot of them because of the gas prices. If we can't get gas seniors won't be getting their meals," said Meals on Wheels deliverer Ben Brown.

"Meals on Wheels" predicts volunteers pay about $300 a year out of their own pocket on gas to make their deliveries. Peters says while it's an expense, the impact of his work is what makes it worth it.

He adds that people need to stop pointing at others and start doing something themselves.

"Anytime you say 'somebody should' you need to change the words and say I'm going to or I will," Peters said.

Peters says the organization needs help and hopes to ignite others to help them make these desperately needed deliveries.

"Meals on Wheels" says whether it's donating money for food or gas, or donating your time to drive deliveries, anything will be an asset.

In just a few weeks, they'll need to raise $150,000 to keep their services going and are counting on the community to step up and help.