Frequently Asked Questions About Volunteering
1. What are the days/times I can volunteer?
Administrative volunteers are welcome to schedule time in our office(s) Monday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm.
Dining Site volunteers are generally needed at various locations between 10:30am -1:00pm on weekdays.
Central Kitchen volunteers are needed for various hours between 8:00am and 6:00pm on weekdays.
Meals on Wheels drivers deliver meals between 10:30am-1:30pm on weekdays. You can choose to volunteer once per month, once per week, or every week day if you want.
We appreciate ALL our volunteers and ANY time they spend helping!
2. How much time does it take to deliver a Meals on Wheels route?
We try to make routes short enough so that one can be completed in about one hour.
3. What does a typical hour spent delivering meals look like?
First, you use your own vehicle to pick up the bag of hot food and cooler with cold food from the designated drop-site. You’ll know which ones to pick up because they will have your route number on them. There are drop-sites located throughout Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties so that they are located as close to the route as possible.
Next, you use the route sheet found in the cooler to begin delivering! The sheet tells you where to deliver, and what type of food each client gets. There are typically 10-12 clients on each route. There may be additional information about locating or entering the residence or communicating with the client. A map is also included. Each delivery may only take a few minutes from the time you approach the entrance to when you leave. Some clients take a little longer to open the door, and some like to chat more than others. On rare occasions (when a client doesn’t answer the door, for example) you are asked to call the Meal on Wheels Office for instructions. When all deliveries are complete, you return the cooler, hot bag, and signed route sheet back to the drop-site. That’s it!
4. How long do I have to commit to volunteering?
We ask for a commitment of three months for Meals on Wheels volunteers. Other programs, such as helping in the central kitchen, can be done as frequently and for as often as you like. If you want to volunteer one time, consider helping at the Run for the Ages 5K, Golf Outing, or Dinner and Auction.
5. Will I get to keep the same route?
It is typical for Meals on Wheels volunteers to deliver the same route on a regular schedule that they determine with the Meals on Wheels volunteer coordinator. We will work with you to find a route in the geographic area that you choose. Please keep in mind that some areas are in greater need than other areas, and although we do our best to find you a route in the area you desire, we appreciate if you are willing to travel! We serve Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties.
If you do not want a regular route, you can always request to be a substitute volunteer for those days in which regular volunteers call in sick or otherwise cannot volunteer.
6. What if I’m sick on the day that I’m scheduled to volunteer?
Just call us! We have an answering machine 24/7. We appreciate having as much notice as possible so we can get someone else to cover the route (if doing Meals on Wheels.) The same applies to all TCOA programs; just call or email your supervisor.
7. What if I am planning on going on vacation or will be away for the season?
You need to take one of us! But seriously, the Meals on Wheels staff are able to accommodate our volunteers who may be away for the winter season or vacation. We ask that you provide as much advanced notice as you can by calling your local Meals on Wheels office so we have enough time to find a substitute volunteer. If you are interested in being an on-call/substitute Meals on Wheels volunteer, we need you!
Any TCOA volunteer who will be gone for an extended period of time should notify their supervisor with as much advanced notice as possible.
8. Can I spend “extra” time with the Meals on Wheels clients?
Yes! You may be the only person some of our clients see/talk with all day. If you have time, we’re sure they would appreciate a little conversation with you!
9. Do you reimburse for gas for Meals on Wheels?
Mileage reimbursement is available. Please request a form to submit to your Meals on Wheels Coordinator.
10. Can I deliver Meals on Wheels on the weekends?
No. Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to stay open on weekends. We do our best to make sure that seniors who need it receive frozen meals to get them through the weekend.
Generally, most volunteer opportunities at TCOA occur during our open hours, Monday-Friday between 8am-5pm. One exception is the central kitchen, which has volunteer opportunities through 6pm and can sometimes accommodate weekend requests for groups.
11. Can I deliver meals with another person?
Every adult who will be delivering meals must complete a TCOA volunteer application and background check. Once those are complete and each volunteer has been trained, many people find it fun to deliver meals with a friend or relative! (Minor children who may join the volunteer are not required to submit an application or background check form.) TCOA does not place volunteers together, but you should feel free to recruit others to help you or to start their own route.
12. Do you have an opportunity for my group or business to volunteer?
Yes! TCOA benefits greatly from groups and businesses who “Adopt a Route!” Area groups or businesses allow their employees to volunteer to deliver meals over the lunch hour. The business is responsible for making sure the route is covered on their designated days.
Additionally, the TCOA Central Kitchen is the perfect place for employees or members of your business or group to complete a day of service. Volunteers help package the meals that will be delivered to seniors, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the great work that goes into making Meals on Wheels successful.
Please call Casey at 517-887-1377 to inquire about adopting a route or group opportunities.
13. I want to deliver Meals on Wheels but don’t have free time between 10:30am-1:30pm. Is there anything similar I can do?
Yes! You can volunteer with the Senior Proxy Project. Volunteer delivery drivers pick up and deliver commodity boxes and fresh produce boxes to seniors who are unable to leave their home. Like Meals on Wheels, it should take the driver about one hour to complete the deliveries. Unlike Meals on Wheels, it can be done any time between 9am-3:30pm on weekdays. These deliveries occur from the 13th to the end of month, every month. Volunteer as few or as many times as you want.
14. What do you require of volunteers?
- Ability to pass a criminal history-only background check. Please note that a record does not automatically disqualify you.
- A valid driver’s license (ONLY if delivering meals or commodity/produce boxes.)
- Participate in the orientation specific to your program.
- Sign a confidentiality agreement.
15. What sort of training do you provide?
Meals on Wheels volunteers participate in a ride-along experience with a current, experienced volunteer. They will make sure you are comfortable with reading the route sheet/map, as well as the instructions for each client and what food they get. This one-on-one training gives you a chance to ask ANY questions you may have about the program or delivery procedures! Other TCOA volunteer programs have training or orientations specific to that program. Just ask if you’re curious.
16. What do other volunteers say about their experience?
Volunteers usually find the time spent helping seniors to be personally rewarding, not to mention it meets a tremendous community need. One former Meals on Wheels volunteer who moved out of the area said of her experience: “I’m sorry to have to quit because I really enjoyed being able to help our clients stay in their homes.” By volunteering with TCOA, you are helping older adults to age in place with independence and dignity, remaining in their own homes and communities.
17. Do you have other volunteer opportunities in addition to Meals on Wheels?
Yes! TCOA offers several programs to fit each volunteer’s unique abilities, interests, and schedules. Please see the description of each role in the Volunteer Application.
18. I’m ready to volunteer! How do I start?
Apply online here, or give us a call at 517-887-1377. Once we receive your application, we will follow up with you promptly. If you do not hear from us in 1-3 business days, check your spam/junk folder, and then call 517-887-1377. Feel free to call us with any questions you may have.