SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It is a service that delivers 700,000 meals to area seniors every year, but a drop in volunteers is putting the program in jeopardy.
Leaders with the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging first put the call out for extra help in July. KY3 viewers stepped up and volunteered at the senior center in Springfield, but centers in 17 other counties face the same problem.
Ozark Senior Center volunteer Ron Spargo delivers homecooked meals meant for homebound seniors every day. His entire route of six houses takes about an hour.
"We just appreciate them so much. We'd really lost without these meals," said Al Garrett, 89.
Garrett takes care of his wife, Katherine, who is recovering from heart surgery. They consider the meal service an answer to prayer.
"We couldn't get by without the Lord helping us," he said.
Spargo, a retiree himself, is part of a network of volunteers who deliver thousands of meals to disabled and low-income senior citizens across the Ozarks. He now delivers daily due to a shortage of others willing and able to help.
"If you've got one hour a day or a week, we just need people driving. It takes about an hour to run each route," Spargo said.
Volunteers with the Ozark Senior Center deliver between 50 and 60 meals a day. The centers in other counties deliver just as many meals, sometimes more, to homebound seniors.
Ozark center director Annie Johnson said the service goes beyond the hot lunch. Her helpers are often the only other people these seniors see, and it is a friendship the meal recipients rely on.
"It's not a hard job, we just need somebody to come here, pick up the meals, and be able to take it out to the homes," Johnson said.
Johnson said with more seniors staying in the workforce, or returning to it for financial reasons, fewer and fewer people are able to help.
If you want to help, you can offer to be at one of the centers for the one-hour lunch shift each day, or one hour a week, or one hour every other week. You can contact the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging if you are able to help.