REAL Services is dedicated to helping elderly and low-income people become and stay independent for life. If you or someone you love needs help during the COVID-19 pandemic, call REAL Services at 574-233-8205.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while most people were rushing to the grocery stores in search of canned goods and toilet paper, the men and women at REAL Services knew they had to adapt to new safety guidelines and do so quickly.
REAL Services offers many invaluable services to the greater Michiana community, but as grocery stores became less safe and people over the age of 60 were encouraged to stay inside, a program such as Meals on Wheels became increasingly important.
“There’s a lot of people out in the community in our five-county area that, unfortunately, can’t get to the grocery stores anymore, so now they’re trying to find food,” said George Hawthorne, Director of Nutrition/Transportation at REAL Services. “We’ve actually ended up doubling the number of meals that we’re sending out—our frozen meals. We’re sending out more meals to people’s homes so that they can have something to eat.”
In total, Hawthorne says that REAL Services is providing and delivering 10,000 meals every week through Meals on Wheels and other clients, a major undertaking especially when you take into account the increased safety precautions the organization has taken in order to keep its clients and employees safe.
For instance, only a limited number of staff members can prepare food at once. They must all wash their hands as soon as they enter the building and wear masks and gloves.
The senior nutrition sites have undergone a similar transformation. Instead of offering meals at more than 30 different sites Monday through Friday, REAL Services now offers clients two frozen meals per visit at the same sites, every Wednesday and Friday.
“Those meals are frozen so that you can take them home and microwave them or throw them in your freezer and eat them when it suits you,” said Crystal Hallwood, REAL Services Nutrition Coordinator who is in charge of the congregate program. “On the bright side, we’re still able to make sure people are food secure.”
In addition to providing nutrition, REAL Services has always included a social aspect when serving or delivering food. When Meals on Wheels are dropped off at people’s homes, the volunteers or staff members usually stay and chat for a little while. At the nutrition sites, seniors used to eat their meals together and play games.
To replace this social aspect, REAL Services now calls almost all of its Meals on Wheels and nutrition site clients, socializing with them and warning them of potential scams.
“We’re calling our clients every week to say, ‘Hey, how are you doing? How are you feeling?’ Checking up on them to see if they’re sick or if they’re still in great shape,” Hawthorne said. “We’re trying to do more for the clients to help them maintain communication with the outside world, as well as just trying to make sure that they are okay. So now they’ve got food. Now they’ve got phone calls, people to talk to, and a lot of them really appreciate the phone calls.”
Interested in Helping REAL Services Provide Meals?
REAL Services is launching its annual REAL Big Raffle, otherwise known as the REAL Room Makeover Raffle, where supporters could win a grand prize of a $25,000 room makeover by Peacock and Company or $15,000 in cash. The drawing is on July 29, and the last day to buy raffle coupons is 4:30 p.m. July 28.
Proceeds from the raffle support Meals on Wheels, with each $50 coupon providing 10 hot nutritious meals to seniors unable to provide the meals for themselves. To increase the odds of winning, only 2,000 coupons will be sold.
There are also two early bird drawings on May 26 and June 23, where supporters will have a chance to win one of 40 prizes valued at a minimum of $50. Supporters who purchase and return their coupons before May 26 will automatically be able to participate in both drawings. Even better, winning coupons at the early bird drawings will still have a chance to take home the grand prize.
“Every year, we end up running a deficit because the federal dollars and the state money, don’t pay for our entire program,” Hawthorne said. “So by being able to have the raffle, we’re able to meet our needs, as well as from community donations that come in. We’re able to maintain the number of meals and reach the number of clients that we do strictly because of the raffle. And the number of people out in the community who donate to our program.
“Let me tell you, the people who donate here in northern Indiana, are some of the most generous individuals in the country.”
To purchase one (or several) of the 2,000 coupons and help vulnerable seniors in the community, visit REALServices.org.