(VIDEO) TriMet teams up with Meals on Wheels People to deliver food, friendly faces

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Seven TriMet customer service representatives help prepare and deliver meals during an unprecedented time of need

TriMet and Meals on Wheels People have teamed up to deliver food to children, families and seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meals on Wheels has seen the need for food deliveries surge as people in Oregon and Southwest Washington follow orders to stay home and practice social distancing. The partnership gave TriMet an opportunity to maintain work hours for the seven members of our on-street customer service team. Without it, their hours could be reduced due to lower ridership and social distancing requirements.

“Our response to COVID-19 requires creativity at every level,” said TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey. “As an agency, we pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service. Helping others is what these members of our team do every day. They are well-suited to make this transition and serve a critical need during these unprecedented times.”

Meals on Wheels relies on hundreds of volunteers, who prepare and distribute 8,000 meals a day in Multnomah County, Washington County and Clark County, Washington. In addition to providing meals for homebound seniors, the organization also serves Portland families who are experiencing food insecurity through its Meals 4 Kids program. While Meals on Wheels relies largely on unpaid volunteers, TriMet will continue to pay these team members an hourly wage while they help the non-profit.

“The requests for meals has skyrocketed in the last month,” said Meals on Wheels People CEO Suzanne Washington. “We are very grateful to corporate partners, like TriMet, who have stepped up to provide us with volunteers in both our Central Kitchen and to help deliver meals. Their service has allowed us to continue to meet the need during the novel coronavirus pandemic.”

The on-street customer service team is performing a variety of duties for Meals on Wheels, including helping to organize volunteers, prepping food boxes and delivering meals. They wear TriMet uniforms and use TriMet-marked vehicles to make deliveries. They follow strict social distancing guidelines and wear personal protective gear, including gloves and face coverings.

“I feel proud to be an essential person in the community,” said Dameion Samuelson, who works on the on-street customer service team. “I’m happy that I can still go out and help the elder community and folks who have disabilities. I’m able to provide good customer service to them and fill a need that they have as a component to their daily life.

“I’m only one of a number of people on this team who are making a difference,” he said. “We have employees still coming in to work at our call center; there’s staff at the TriMet Ticket Office; and we have our wonderful drivers. They’re all out there doing the best they can to get people safely to hospitals and grocery stores.”

The team is currently working at Meals on Wheels for a 30-day trial period. The partnership will be re-evaluated every 30 days.

Our service during the COVID-19 pandemic

TriMet is still here for those who need it. Our region’s health workers, grocery store employees and other essential workers, including our own operators, depend on buses and trains to keep them moving. We miss our regular riders, but we do urge everyone to follow the state’s guidance and stay home. For more information and updates, go to trimet.org/health.