Three of the center's 10 routes, which account for nearly 40 clients, currently are without regular drivers, she said. Those routes are being covered by substitutes or by volunteers who double up on routes.
Clients are referred to the center by agency caseworkers. The Older Americans Act prohibits the agency from charging for meals, and clients who can afford it are asked to make donations, she said.
Kell said she expects things to become more difficult with the coming of winter because the number of clients increases in cold weather and there are fewer drivers to serve them. Some volunteers head to Florida for the winter, and some don't like to drive in bad weather, Kell said.
The program is canceled on days when the public schools close for inclement weather, Kell said. "On those days I come and call all of the clients to make sure they're all right," she said.
The clients are given two packaged meals to keep on their shelves for emergencies when volunteers can't get to them with hot meals. The clients' families and friends take care of them on weekends, she said. In special cases, the agency sends caretakers to their homes.
The daily visits also ensure that the clients are doing okay. Occasionally a volunteer will find a client dead or ill. "Our drivers have saved some lives," Kell said.
Volunteer drivers are not paid and don't get money for gas, but "do it out of the goodness of their hearts," Kell said.
Margaret Bream, director of the county's senior centers for the agency, praised the volunteer drivers for their dedication and efforts. "Many of them do it until they can't anymore. Some become clients themselves," she said.
Kell said she will need another eight to 10 substitute drivers in the next few months. Anyone wishing to volunteer may call Kell at the center at 717-762-2758.