One of the women on Kim Gray’s Meals on Wheels route doesn’t have a car or any easy way to get to the store.

So just about every week, Gray picks up some things to drop off when she delivers food to the woman on Thursdays.

Another woman on the route is 87 years old and has trouble maintaining her beautiful flower garden, so Gray pitches in when she’s finished making deliveries in China and Vassalboro.

“We made a deal,” said Gray, who lives in Waterville. “I go and help her, and I get the flowers she pulls out. I put them in my yard.”

Getting to know the people on the route and their families makes it hard when one of them dies, Gray said. But it’s also her favorite thing about delivering Meals on Wheels.

“I think they enjoy my company, and they look forward to me coming, too,” Gray said. “For some of them, it’s the only person they see. There’s a lot of fulfillment in the job, working with the people.”

Gray, 60, has been a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels for more than three years.

Spectrum Generations, which runs Meals on Wheels programs out of its centers in Hallowell, Waterville and Skowhegan, is putting out a call for more drivers to make deliveries to homebound seniors and disabled adults in Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Volunteer coordinator Jamie Ribisi-Bradley said there has been a lot of turnover all at once. Some drivers go away for the season. Many are seniors themselves, and some have to stop volunteering because of their health or other reasons.

Ribisi-Bradley said the need for drivers is especially acute in Somerset County, where the routes tend to be longer and sometimes have to be split between two drivers.

“We tend to have a lot of people who are kind of tucked away who are harder to get to in that area,” she said.

Volunteers need to have a driver’s license and their own vehicle, but it doesn’t have to be a large one, Ribisi-Bradley said. They must be able to lift 25 pounds.

Drivers are needed for Tuesdays and Thursdays to make deliveries from the Somerset Community Center in Skowhegan or from the Muskie Community Center in Waterville and on Wednesdays and Fridays for deliveries out of the Cohen Community Center in Hallowell.

The routes take two to three hours each day, and drivers are reimbursed for mileage. Ribisi-Bradley said drivers can share a route so that each drives only one day a week.

Spectrum Generations is also looking for more companies to commit to routes. Companies including Central Maine Power Co. and Liberty Mutual have employees rotate as volunteers so that it’s less of a time commitment for any one person while still providing coverage.

In addition to retirees and people who work part time, Meals on Wheels welcomes volunteers who are college students or stay-at-home parents. Ribisi-Bradley said some parents take their children with them.

“It gives their children these 10 grandparents they never had,” Ribisi-Bradley said, “and our Meals on Wheels consumers really love to see the children, too.”

Hallowell resident Frank Burkett, 70, has been a volunteer driver for at least five years. He has a route in Gardiner and South Gardiner, and he also is a backup driver for other routes.

Burkett said driving for Meals on Wheels is a worthwhile way for a retiree to spend some time, and it allows him to give back to his community, an imperative he said he feels as a Christian.

Burkett said he loves the people he’s met on his route. He spends a few minutes at each home to talk to the person living there and make sure they’re OK, and he said they’re thankful for the food and the conversation.

It’s beneficial for Burkett, too.

“I can’t sit here at home all the time and play on the computer,” he said. “It is very fulfilling work.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan


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