‘We’ll be lost without it’


A Limerick meals on wheels service, which was operating on a shoestring due to financial pressures from Covid-19, is to close on April 5 unless it receives further emergency funding.

The organisers of the service, St Munchin’s Community Centre, in Kileely, serves 200 meals a day to elderly and vulnerable clients across Limerick and parts of Clare but was planning for to deliver 1,000 meals a day due to increased demand.

A spokesperson for the community centre today tweeted: “We’ll have to shut our doors from the 5th April 2020 as we financially aren’t able to keep going.”

“We are a social enterprise, we depend on our enterprises in the centre as income to keep our doors open, but we’ve had to close those the enterprises,” they further explained.

Last week manager of the community centre Linda Ledger said she had reduce her staff from 26 to 10, after closing the centre’s hair salon, beauticians, florist, and rent a room service.

Ledger said she also closed the community centre’s cafe as it was “too difficult” to control social distancing protocols.

A spokesperson for the centre today tweeted: “We’ve had to let more staff go that weren’t the core staff of Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels will be stopped on the 5th April unless we get the funding to keep going because right now we don’t have enough funding.”

“Please know this decision was not taken lightly.”

A GoFundMe account set up to keep the service running had received over €5,000 of its €8,000 target.

The spokesperson thanked all those who had donated the emergency funds which “will keep us open for the next 2 weeks”.

“Thank u to our staff for being patient with us. Thank u to the businesses who’ve donated & Thank u to our manager Linda Ledger for pushing through all the battles to keep us open for as long as possible.”

The community centre cafe is a meeting point for hundreds of local elderly people “who are now cocooned in their homes, missing their grandchildren, and in need of support more than ever”, Ledger said.

“We have been inundated with a lot of new people, a lot of nurses, and a people that have come out of hospital. We are trying to feed them,” she added.

A “friendly phonecall service” which aims to prevent those “locked in” at home, becoming “miserable and depressed and isolated” has been extended.

“Some get a friendly call every morning to tel them what’s on for their dinner. They might have Alzheimer’s, or they’re just lonesome, so they get a phone call everyday,” said Ledger.

The local elderly population are “really struggling; they need toilet rolls, soap, milk, bread”.

Ledger and her “skeletal crew” have employed a novel way of supplying a fresh supply of milk, by freezing it in ice pockets.

Eighty-five-year-old Marie Fitzgerald, who uses the meals on wheels service said she and others would “be lost” if it closes.

Marie Fitzgerald. Pic: Press 22
Marie Fitzgerald. Pic: Press 22

Fitzgerald, from Keane Street, Killalee, said: “I’m not joking you, you wouldn’t get a meal like it in a hotel, for four euros fifty cent. I get it everyday, except Sunday.”

“The staff are brilliant, they are so courteous.”

Delivery staff also provide human interaction with elderly clients “who might not see anyone from one end of the week to another”, added Fitzgerald.

Closing the service “would be desperate for very old person that relies on it”.

“We’ll be lost without it.”

“People go to the centre to have their dinner, and to sit down and chat with others.”

Fitzgerald, who has 11 grandchildren, also explained how the meals on wheels service was more important now than ever as grandparents were effectively cut off from family members observing social distancing and self-isolation.

She is keeping herself occupied “with knitting, sewing, and reading, doing puzzles and word searches”.

Ledger and her skeletal staff are still “getting ready for a worst case scenario of clients being locked-in for months, or, if this does escalate and there is a complete lock-down”.

“The government are asking anybody over 70 to have no interaction, even with their grandkids, and it’s very hard. Most don’t have smart phones so they cant FaceTime anyway. They are feeling loneliness and isolation.”

“We can’t ask the elderly to cocoon for months on end, and then abandon them. The government need to come in behind services like ours,” she said.

Donations to the meals on wheels service can be delivered to the centre or made online.

    Useful information

  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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