MANATEE -- Last year, a group of IMG Academy freshmen delivered hot meals to Manatee County senior shut-ins during the school's "Freshman Day of Service."
About 30 freshmen will be doing the same thing again this year, volunteering on Oct. 14 for Meals on Wheels PLUS, said Emily Rickerson of IMG Academy.
The help, even for one day, is appreciated because there is a critical shortage of volunteers to deliver meals to shut-ins, said Wanda K. Read-Burke, Meals on Wheels PLUS' volunteer engagement manager.
While Meals on Wheels PLUS has about 180 volunteers, it's not enough to serve
about 900 needy seniors, whose numbers have risen by 10 percent over the past few years, Read-Burke said.
"I think a core of our volunteers are seniors themselves and have become compromised with health challenges and can't do it anymore," Read-Burke said.
Meals on Wheels PLUS, which cooks, prepares and loads meals from its headquarters at 811 23rd Ave. E., needs about 20 volunteers immediately, Read-Burke said.
The volunteers usually work one or two days a week, running a route that usually takes a few hours per day to complete.
"Every meal is getting delivered, but because of the shortage of volunteers right now we are having to use volunteers more days a week than usual, and we are using some employees to run routes," Read-Burke said.
Mike Korsch, 80, who has been volunteering at Meals on Wheels PLUS for four years, urged people to volunteer because they will get more out of volunteering than the clients do.
Korsch delivers meals four days a week.
Korsch's route is in Palmetto, where he makes 27 stops, including 19 in the Holy Cross Manor apartments next to Holy Cross Catholic Church.
The meals are all prepared and packed for Korsch in insulated bags or coolers and fit easily into his Honda CRV.
"These are homebound people who can't cook and can really enjoy a hot meal in their home," Korsch said. "If you could see the smile they give me and hear the 'God bless you's' ... you would know why I say I get more out of it than they get."
To volunteer, people must have a vehicle, a driver's license and vehicle insurance, Read-Burke said.
There is an application and background screening. There is reimbursement on mileage, but many volunteers donate it.
Anyone interested in volunteering to deliver hot meals for Meals on Wheels PLUS can call 941-745-4655 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.