May 5—PLATTSBURGH — Home Delivered Meals Program director Nicole "Niki" Locklin is five months into her new position.
Longtime director, Tammy Kemp, retired in December 2020 after a tad over 35 years.
"I've been with the Senior Citizens Council Nutrition Program since 2017," Locklin said.
"I started in the kitchen as a prep cook. While I was working, I was also going to school to earn my degree. And then in December 2018, I took over for Kim Rennie because she retired. She was the administrative assistant for 25 years at the Nutrition Program."
In August 2020, Locklin finished her degree in business management from Champlain College in Burlington, Vt.
Three months later, Kemp announced her retirement.
"She was ready to move on to her next chapter," Locklin said.
"I'm still keeping her busy. We only had about a month for me to train, and in that month there was a lot of movement in the program.
"In addition to learning Tammy's job or the director's job, I also had to teach the two new incomers."
Christine Finnegan started as the the new office assistant, and Teresa Lemieux started as the new assistant director also in December 2020.
"There were a lot of changes in a very short amount of time," Locklin said.
"Even though I technically had almost a whole month of training time with Tammy, it was almost impossible to fit all of her 35 years of knowledge in that one month while I was also teaching the other two new people their jobs. I still had to rely on her."
SURGE IN DEMAND
At the beginning of her tenure and all during the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of meals the program has provided has gone up at least 25 percent if not more.
"We have, unfortunately in the first time of the entire program, have had to have a wait list," Locklin said.
"So now that things are opening back up, we are looking to expand the program, start possibly some new routes to be able to provide services more for the people who are on the wait list and the people, in general, of the county because our needs are growing as the population is getting older."
In order to erase the wait list and expand the program for the people that need it, volunteer drivers are needed.
"We do have plans basically on hold as to how we are going to expand the program and the new routes we want to start," she said.
"In order to do that, we do need drivers. They do need to have their own vehicle. We do reimburse for mileage, 55 cents a mile. That is tax-free."
Interested parties can contact Locklin Monday through Friday, between between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at 518-561-8320.
"We would discuss if they are able to do five days a week, which would be awesome or if they're only able to commit to a few days a week," she said.
"Then, we have them fill out an application, and we do have to do a background check that involves fingerprints and the DMV driving record."
Right now, 19 routes crisscross Clinton County.
"There are four routes that go out of the Ellenburg site, two routes that go out of Rouses Point site, and then all the rest come out of here, the Plattsburgh site," Locklin said.
"We are looking at least one more if not two. But, we'll start with one."
Becoming a Home Delivered Meals driver is a good way to give back to the community and to stay active in the community.
"It's only from 10 a.m. to about 1 p.m., give or take a little bit," she said.
"By the time you're done your route for the day, you got all the best hours of sunlight left. It's warm, and you're awake. It doesn't take up a lot of the day. The short visit that the driver has with each of their clients, it means the world to them."
Locklin grew up in Keeseville and graduated from AuSable Valley High School in 2002.
She has been in the customer service business pretty much all her life.
"My dad is Randy Pray, and he is a part-owner of the Pray's Family Farm & Market in Plattsburgh," Locklin said.
"I worked from dishwasher to assistant manager at Pizza Palace over a number of years."
Now, Locklin is looking for a few good drivers to get the nutritious meals out to hungry seniors.
"If anybody is interested in becoming a volunteer or a driver, we can do a tour of the kitchen to see the awesome work that we do here," she said.
"They can just call the office. Right now we serve about 500 people, and we do that with an in-house staff of about 10. The amount of people who work in the kitchen is 10 or less, and, obviously, all the drivers as well.
"It's really amazing that such a small team of workers is able to put out that massive amount of food and able to feed that many every single day."
Meals are delivered to 500 people daily Monday through Friday.
"We do also provide one frozen meal for the weekend, so that all of our seniors are fed on the weekend as well," Locklin said.
"I've been here for almost five years, and it's still kind of amazing to me how much we do with how little we do it with."
In the first week of May, she's getting the hang of it.
"I have to rely on Tammy less and less," Locklin said.
"I'm maybe only asking her questions once a week now rather than every single day. It's been really great.
"We have such a great staff here, and I inherited such a great team. I have such a great relationship from all the drivers from when I was working in the kitchen and then moved into the administrative assistant job."
Locklin feels it's been a really smooth transition.
"And, I hope that everybody does as well," she said.
"I'm very happy with the chance that I was given."
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