In 1969, 14 churches combined their volunteer efforts to help people who were in need of a hot meal but couldn't leave their homes. The churches formed the Ecumenical Community Helping Others. Today the organizations is known as ECHO Meals on Wheels.
ECHO Meals on Wheels has been delivering meals in the western suburbs for 38
years, and this has been one of the toughest years for available drivers. The volunteer force is primarily made up of seniors, many whom have been volunteering for 15 to 20 years. Every week this winter, route coordinators have scrambled to find people to deliver meals to clients.
Volunteers prepare and deliver approximately 140 hot meals per day. Each meal includes delivery of a hot lunch and a frozen entr (c)e for later.
"We typically have about 170 active volunteers," said Ross Maniaci, a member of the organization. "But this year we have had considerably less, which has made it difficult at times."
Many volunteers like to get away from the cold, and this year the group has had an inordinate number of the remaining volunteers become sick, some even having to have surgery.
Over the years the demand for this service has grown substantially. At one point there was actually a waiting list.
"We didn't want people who needed a meal to have to be put on a waiting list," Maniaci said. "So, with the help of other community members, we were able to move to the Camillus Municipal Building and we purchased new ovens, stoves and a larger freezer to accommodate the increased demand."
Because this organization is comprised of almost all volunteers, the group is asking for the help of their neighbors in the Camillus, Marcellus, Geddes Fairmount, Onondaga and Solvay areas to help.
Volunteering can be once a week, every other week or even just once a month; they are very flexible in their scheduling. It won't take more than one to two hours to deliver between 12 and 22 meals per run. While volunteering you'll meet some very nice people and you'll get a lot of satisfaction out of giving back to your community.
"We are a great community of volunteers who enjoy working and socializing with one another for this great cause," Maniaci said. "We really hope that we can recruit some younger volunteers as well."
For more information about ECHO Meals on Wheels, call 487-2878 or 673-2464 to help out.