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Jeff Perl knows the people on the route he drives weekly for Meals on Wheels.
"He's such a nice gentleman," he said, as he pulled up to a home in Suntree. "Always waiting at the door."
Perl parked, then retrieved a warm of chicken parmesan from the back of his car. As he made his way up the front walk, the door opened. A frail-looking man greeted Perl and thanked him.
Another always waits. He is deaf and can't hear the doorbell, and is afraid of missing his daily meal.
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Meals on Wheels, a service provided by Aging Matters in Brevard, brings hot lunches to the doorsteps of 1,606 homebound people on the Space Coast five days a week; 500 people on a waiting list could receive food if the agency had more money.
"Gas prices aren't helping," said Vimarie Monopoli, director of development for Aging Matters. "Food prices aren't helping."
"Across the board, prices are up 20% from January," said senior director of operations Tom Kammerdener, during a recent tour of the agency's community kitchen in Cocoa. "You end up feeding less people. We can do so much more volume here, it's the money, there is such a need here and it's not going away."
Monopoli would like to see the waiting list become a thing of the past, and she's hoping two new initiatives will help that happen while making it easy for people and businesses to pitch in.
For individuals, who can spare a few extra dollars a month, Aging Matters has created the More Than A Meal Club. As little as $30 a month, or $1 a day, can provide meals for one homebound person a week.
An online form at agingmattersbrevard.org makes it easy to sign up for a recurring payment.
Businesses can become part of the More Than A Meal Club, too, Monopoli said, giving their customers a chance to round up their purchases or make a one-time donation.
She's calling this push #ThePowerOfLocal.
The existing point of sale system allows some businesses to automatically offer this opportunity for customers. Where the option isn't available, a QR code can be provided, taking patrons directly to the Aging Matters giving platform.
Monopoli said she can help restaurants and other businesses set the system up and provide promotional material, making the process quick and painless.
Meals on Wheels really does deliver more than meals, Monopoli said.
Often, the volunteer driver is the only person a homebound senior sees all day. In addition to delivering food, the volunteers provide wellness checks.
As Perl made stops along his route, a client in a condo near Suntree Country Club didn't answer the door. She wasn't on his list of people who were away that day, so he called the dispatch center and gave her name and address to the operator so someone could check to make sure she was OK.
A few blocks away, Norma Perry answered the door with a smile. She said she was grateful for her lunch and the daily visit.
"It's very, very important," she said.
Without being able to drive, she said, it's difficult to make appointments or to shop.
Perry taught school for 43 years at Sherwood Elementary and Suntree Elementary. Now widowed, she recently lost her beloved dog. She enjoys having someone stop by for a chat, even if it's only for a few minutes.
How you can help
To join the More Than A Meal Club, visit agingmattersbrevard.org and follow the link.
Businesses interested in helping harness #ThePowerOfLocal can contact Vimarie Monopoli at email@example.com or 321-806-3767.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Donations could help Brevard Meals on Wheels combat rising food costs