In the winter of 2010, when Ireland was in the grips of a big freeze, the Irish army and a team of volunteers in 4x4’s, stepped in to ensure that hot meals would still be delivered to Meals on Wheels clients living in and around Athlone town.
That’s the kind of voluntary commitment that has kept Athlone Meals on Wheels on the road for over 40 years.
The hand-delivered hot nutritious meal and daily human contact remain a lifeline for hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people, many of whom live alone.
Five years ago the service reached 110 people daily. Today, 150 meals are prepared daily in a purpose-built kitchen in Áras Bríd in Excise Street, for clients who are referred by the community nurse, the doctor or the Home Care Assistant and delivered by a team of volunteer drivers. There is no waiting list and no means test.
Three years ago, a welcome €10,000 National Lottery grant, via the Department of Health, facilitated the purchase of a van and the expansion of the service, which now covers a 50 km radius in the town’s rural hinterland.
“Getting that van has been absolutely fantastic. We were able to go out to areas like Ballinahown, Moate and Ballymore where there had been no service before,” explains Mags O’Donnell, who has been managing the service for eight years.
A second van is now on the road, reaching rural dwellers on the Roscommon side of the town.
“Everybody is happy and it’s not just about the meal. For the client, it might be their only contact in the day. Families are delighted to know there is someone calling. If the driver notices there is something not right, they contact me straight away and we raise the alarm,” adds Mags.
Approximately 30 cent of every €1 spent on National Lottery games go back to funding for Good Causes in the areas of sport, youth, health, welfare, education, arts and heritage. In total, more than €5 Billion has been raised for Good Causes since the National Lottery was established 30 years ago. In 2016 alone, the National Lottery raised over €210 million for such good causes.