EveryStep Staff Steps Up To Volunteer For Meals on Wheels During Pandemic

During normal operations, EveryStep's two large passenger vans are busy bustling clients and participants around the metro, whether for doctor's appointments, classes or other important tasks.

That's changed during the COVID-19 pandemic as many of the organization's programs have adapted to keep clients and staff safe.

As a result, EveryStep's two passenger vans sat relatively empty, with no routes on the horizon.

That changed recently, however, when EveryStep learned that the United Way of Central Iowa and WesleyLife were in need of volunteers to make deliveries for the Meals on Wheels program.

"When (our leadership team) learned that the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the number of individuals able to assist with the Meals on Wheels program, they knew EveryStep would be able to help fill this need," says Cindy Winn, Healthy Start director for EveryStep.

The United Way of Central Iowa has been a long-time supporter of EveryStep programing, so the opportunity to help their efforts was an easy decision to make.

After reaching out to both organizations, Winn says EveryStep approached staff at its 9th Street office about volunteering to make the deliveries.

"Our staff’s response has been heartwarming. We had an overwhelming response when we asked for staffs’ help filling the routes’ positions," she recalls, noting that the opportunity has given staff from different programs the ability to work together and get to know each other better while serving the community.

Larry Young has been driving one of the vans during deliveries.

"I love helping people and this is one way I can do it," he says. "I feel honored to being part of a great organization that will step up to the plate in a time of need. This is a home run!"

EveryStep officially began making deliveries throughout nine routes in the community on April 29. The deliveries will continue each Tuesday and Wednesday until May 27.

Those making deliveries are taking extra care to ensure everyone is safe.

"Staff are not allowed past the recipients’ front door and must use hand sanitizer prior and after each delivery," Winn notes.

Despite the precautions, Larry notes that the deliveries still have a personal touch.

"The participants of Meals on Wheels were happy to see us," he says. "Some were waiting in their apartment building’s lobby to see us. They love to talk! They need that face to mask interaction."

While the vans are driven by the same two EveryStep staff members - Larry and Aaron Shore - each week, a number of different employees ride along to make the deliveries.

"It was great," says Pam Kracht, EveryStep Healthy Start case manager. "I loved being it. If there are any days the assigned person or sub cannot do it, I'd love to do it again."

Aaron adds that it’s nice to be able to help those in the community during these uncertain times. 

“Most of the people I have met while volunteering have a hard time moving and are medically fragile,” he says. “I love being greeted at the door to a clients house by a heart felt thank you and God bless you.”

Though the partnership likely won't continue after the pandemic as the vans and staff members currently assisting in the deliveries will be back to their normal schedule helping clients, Winn says it's been rewarding for all involved.

"WesleyLife has been extremely grateful to EveryStep for covering the Meals on Wheels routes during this time," Winn says. "This partnership has allowed WesleyLife and United Way of Central Iowa to maximize their volunteers on other routes and projects."

Still, the opportunity has proven to be a shining light for staff and the organization during these uncertain times.

"EveryStep truly is there every step of the way with our clients and the community," Winn says. "This doesn’t change despite a public health emergency. EveryStep is vigilant to protect its staff’s health and wellbeing while making sure the community’s need is being met.  It’s a wonderful thing to see the agency pull together and continue make great things happen in new ways."