ClasTran first hit the road in 1997, aiming to provide a much-needed service to seniors and people with disabilities: reliable transportation. Since then, the program has helped countless individuals connect with resources and amenities throughout Jefferson and Shelby counties, making more than 167,880 trips in 2019 alone!
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ClasTran has taken preventive measures in its daily operations, including decreasing capacity from 10 passengers to three at a time. Allowing for social distancing on board the vehicle is, of course, designed to safeguard the health of passengers and drivers alike. But that reduction in capacity has also produced an unforeseen side effect.
“We see our clients as family members,” said Shari Spencer, Executive Director of ClasTran. “Since we’re not able to see them, it’s like missing a parent or grandparent.”
To support their “family,” ClasTran has taken on new roles, including using the extra space in their vehicles to deliver meals for the United Way Meals on Wheels program in Jefferson County. Meals on Wheels is best known for direct deliveries to homebound seniors, but the feeding program also provides group meals at senior centers. And with most senior centers shuttered since the beginning of the pandemic, many of the seniors who normally enjoyed their mid-day meals at one of the area facilities suddenly became food insecure. So ClasTran stepped in to deliver meals directly to their doorsteps.
“We’ve really enjoyed the work,” said Spencer. “It helps us show our seniors that we’re still thinking about them.”
ClasTran currently helps 13 senior centers deliver meals to 189 clients, or 1,323 meals per week. Thanks to partners such as ClasTran, as well as a tireless team of volunteers and dedicated donors, Meals on Wheels has delivered about 224,000 meals to clients in Jefferson County since the onset of the coronavirus. Additionally, the program has provided more than 25,000 meals to area seniors who are on the waiting list for service.
Along with all those deliveries – which currently consist of a week’s supply of frozen meals – comes another key benefit to Meals on Wheels clients: social interaction. Clients and volunteers alike look forward to their brief visits, a little conversation and safety checks. Normally, that’s a daily occurrence. But since deliveries are currently made only once a week, Meals on Wheels has worked diligently to assuage any feelings of social isolation by enlisting volunteers to call clients on a regular basis, just to check in and make sure everyone is well and holding up.
“It’s really opened us up to what’s really going on with them and established a support line for people who are now disconnected from family,” said Meals on Wheels Director Becky Wright.
And because home is now more important than ever, Meals on Wheels is also supporting clients by working with other United Way programs and partners to provide vital home repairs ranging from railing to roofing.
“We’re really proud of the work we’ve been doing,” said Wright. “I’m so appreciative of our donors and volunteers.” Meals on Wheels really does deliver hope to the homebound.
To help Meals on Wheels serve at-risk seniors right here in our community, please visit the donation page.