PICKENS COUNTY — Everyone knows that Meals on Wheels delivers hot meals to senior citizens and other home-bound clients in the area but the truth is the hard working volunteers of the non-profit organization do so much more including occasionally save a life.
“We have a policy in place that if a driver goes to deliver a meal and no one answers, they call in here to the center and we reach out to their emergency contacts to tell them that the person is not coming to the door,” said Meta Bowers, executive director for Pickens County Meals on Wheels. “Nine times out of 10, it’s nothing — they had a doctor’s appointment or something and forgot to notify us that no one would be home.”
But every once in a while, a “doctor’s appointment” is not the case.
“On average, about six times a year I would say, they’re not coming to the door because something is wrong,” she said. “Either they’ve fallen, or they’re unresponsive or they’ve passed. It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve had two of those cases in just two weeks.”
Bowers said that two weeks ago a call came in from a volunteer driver where their client — who was suffering from stage 4 lung cancer — didn’t answer the door.
“In this case the man lived alone and his only family in the area was a niece with young children who worked third shift,” said Bowers. “Emergency services were called and the man was found on the floor.”
Bowers said the man was black and blue all over from repeated falls and was only semi-conscious.
“It turned out that he had fallen around 3 a.m., our driver came at 11 so he had already been lying there for eight hours,” she said. “Had she not stopped …”
The man was taken to Greenville Memorial but sadly his condition has since declined, said Bowers.
On Monday, it happened again.
“Vance Truesdale is a regular volunteer and he was on his route when he noticed the client’s dog was outside,” she said. “He rang the bell, no one answered and he called in to the center but seeing the dog outside was bothering him. The dog is never outside.”
Trusedale walked around to the back of the house and found the client outside on the ground.
“He had his cell phone in his pocket, but he had fallen in such a way that he couldn’t reach it,” Bowers said. “Meanwhile we’re on the phone with his daughter who was out of state and very worried because she had been trying to get ahold of him and couldn’t.”
Bowers said Truesdale called 911 and stayed with him until help arrived.
“Our volunteers have a real sense of ownership with their routes,” she said. “It’s not uncommon to hear them refer to it as ‘their route’ and ‘their people.’ They’re emotionally invested.
“It’s not just a hot meal, it’s companionship and it’s a safety check,” said Bowers. “Two instances in two weeks is unusual, but it highlights the real need in the area for services like this.”
But the services don’t come without cost — not to the clients but to the organization itself.
According to Bowers, PCMOW has recently had to shell out over $21,000 in unexpected expenses — a huge kick in the gut for a non-profit.
“Ugh, you name it, it broke this year,” said Bowers. “When we opened the McKissick Center, we kept a lot of the equipment that came with the building, but we’ve just had the worst luck with it over the past several months.”
It started with a $7,000 steamer that the kitchen uses to cook vegetables, she said — but that was just the start of it.
“The steamer broke in April and then in June, our elevator broke,” said Bowers. “In July, we had issues with our (new) HVAC unit, a freezer died in August and then just last month we lost our dishwasher.”
Bowers said despite negotiating discounts with companies for replacements and repairs, it was a blow to the budget.
“These aren’t frivolous expenses, we need every one of these things,” she said. “Oh, and it also turned out the frame was rusting out of our van. I almost forgot about that one.”
Bowers said that while typically donations to PCMOW increase in the winter months, summer is notoriously slow for most non-profits.
“People go on vacation during the summer and when you’re not home, you don’t donate to places,” she said. “It’s pretty much that way across the board. But we operate year-round.”
PCMOW is hosting several events to try and make up the $21,000 and keep operations running normally including a Glow Run on Oct. 21 and a Casino Night on Nov. 4 in Liberty.
For more information on how to help, or to make a donation visit www.pcmow.org or drop by in person at the McKissick Center at 349 Edgemont Ave. in Liberty.
“Drop on by,” said Bowers. “We’re always here.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.