Meals on Wheels overcoming challenges from gas shortage to feed senior community

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 4:53 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - One organization is working around the clock to make sure nearly 200 people in need of a hot meal get it during the gas shortage.

Michael Tyler, CEO of Meals on Wheels for Horry County, says the shortages at the pump are making it harder on some of the volunteers who deliver meals.

On average, Tyler says the organization has about 150 volunteers weekly helping to prepare and deliver meals.

But this week, he says that number has decreased by more than 50%. As of now, he says their team has 26 meal drivers.

Tyler said the volunteers who deliver the meals are using their personal vehicles and many have stepped down from their driving duties because they don’t know how soon they can re-fill their tanks.

“They use their own gas, their own time,” he said.

After holding a Zoom session, Tyler’s team made a decision to immediately prepare enough packages so 190 residents have two weeks worth of meals.

“Around 2,500 meals we’ve got to get ready,” he said.

The team will be delivering the food items with the 26 drivers they have Thursday and Friday.

“We prayed about it and said we got to do something now just in case,” Tyler said. “These folks can’t help themselves on a normal day. How are they going to help themselves if help can’t get to them or they have no way to get out, which is typically the case.”

Tyler says Thursday morning the kitchen area will be extremely busy, preparing meals for seniors and those who need their services.

The team spent the day notifying residents they’ll be receiving two-weeks worth of food over the next two-day period.

Tyler says serving the public during difficult times is nothing new for Meals on Wheels.

“We didn’t shut our doors during the COVID-19 lockdown,” he said. “We actually increased our services from 100 meals a day, five days a week to 1,500 meals a day six days a week. It actually prepared us for this moment. The only thing we didn’t account for was a lack of fuel.”

As for the temporary gas shortage, he says that won’t stop them from helping to feed those in the Grand Strand community.

“We’re going to go out and visit our seniors because they’re worth more than our time,” Tyler said. “Even if we’re not delivering meals.”

It was announced Wednesday evening the Colonial Pipeline is back up and running. However, it could be several days before supplies are at full capacity.

In the event the gas shortage continues and they’re low on drivers, Tyler said their donor Grand Strand Nissan has agreed to provide fueled vehicles to assist with deliveries.

“If it’s one thing I’ve learned about Horry County, the residents and business owners such as Grand Strand Nissan, they’ll step up when this [area] is in trouble,” Tyler said. “They are a shinning example of what this community represents.”

Tyler says anyone in the Horry County community in need of their services can fill out an application on the Meals on Wheels website.

He says the organization is always in need donations because they’re 100% locally funded.

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