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Meals on Wheels Facing Volunteer Shortage, Rising Fuel Costs

Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News.
Ora Lee Clark of Austin admires the gifts she received through Meals on Wheels and More's "Be a Santa to a Senior" program in December.

Austin-based Meals on Wheels and More relies on volunteers to deliver ninety percent of the one-million meals it delivers annually. But this summer, the group is scrambling to find people to fill open routes across Central Texas.

The aid organization says it normally loses volunteers as summer approaches, but this year is worse.

"People normally start rolling off because of summer vacations, kids getting out off school, and we noticed this year it's coming on much faster," Theresa Medlin, VP of Volunteers Services and Distribution, told KUT.  "On Friday morning, we had 33 open routes and by Friday afternoon, we're at 40."

Medlin says she's unsure why volunteers are leaving in larger numbers.

"We know gas prices have increased. We still want to believe that that could have some impact on some of the change," said Medlin. "But no one is really saying that. People are just saying 'changing schedules."

Any route that is not staffed by a volunteer must be covered by a hired driver. That increases the amount the group must pay for in administrative and fuel costs

"It could potentially impact us around $25,000 over the summer just in fuel alone" said Medlin.

Medlin says she has one simple message for parents who don't think they can volunteer, because their kids are out of school for the summer.

"We would encourage moms and dads, if they want, to bring their kiddos along, because our clients really do enjoy that," she said.

Click here to learn how to volunteer at Meals on Wheels and More.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.