Gas prices are driving away volunteer opportunities for Meals on Wheels

Gas Prices
Posted at 1:11 PM, Jun 10, 2022

FRANKLIN, Tenn — Gas prices continue to rise and it's having an impact on those who use their car to help those in need.

The Mid-Cumberland Meals-on-Wheels in Tennessee is experiencing this firsthand. Staff say they already had a volunteer quit because of the rising costs.

Around 10 a.m., volunteers start trickling in to grab the food orders for their routes in Franklin.

Many volunteers like Gail Stark help serve over 300,000 meals annually from 17 meal sites in the region.

"I retired probably 12 years ago, and I thought 'you know I really need to do something to help other people, I feel so blessed with what I have been, how can I give back?' and so I signed up."

Starck has been helping for two years now and calls it one of the most rewarding things that she has ever done in her life.

She helps serve more than 11 million meals to seniors in Middle Tennessee.

Staff say not only is it important these seniors get a nutritious meal but meet people as well.

"It’s very important to our clients here in the area to get a meal because sometimes it is the only interaction that they have with a volunteer or with someone throughout the day," said site manager, Lindsey Burbank.

But with the gas prices climbing, it's driving away the help this organization says it desperately needs.

"I’ve recently just lost a volunteer that can’t deliver right now. She said she’s going to come back as soon as the gas prices go down," Burbank said. "All of our counties especially the ones that go out and the rural areas really do have a hard time when you’re delivering meals miles apart from each other. It’s the first thing that goes, it’s not in their budget."

Mid-Cumberland Meals-on-Wheels is hoping the prices at pump don't continue to turn good help away.

"Gas prices haven't really affected me, I come from Thompson station. So it probably is only a gallon of gas that I use. I know out in some of the rural areas, you know, the folks have to drive a little bit further and use a little bit more but even if gas went up to $20 a gallon, I would still do this because that's how rewarding it is to me," said Starck.

The staff is hopeful they can find more volunteers like Starck.

This story was first reported by Kelsey Gibbs at WTVF in Nashville, Tenn.