Springwell HDM Volunteer FAQ’s & Updates

This document is a compilation of the most frequently asked questions we receive during the orientation process that are not covered in the online training or other materials, as well as questions and requests for clarifications we’ve received from volunteers who have been actively driving. It will be updated as we get more information, and can be found online at www.springwell.com/hdm-faq.


Things you will (probably) already know if you’ve done a shift:

Q:   About how many meals will I deliver each day? 

A:    It depends on the day and the specifics of the route. A full route is about 30 stops. Some seniors on that route will receive one meal, some will receive two. On Wednesdays, we deliver frozen meals, so some consumers may receive up to four meals.

Q:   Is social distancing practiced at the food pick up site?

A:    To the best of our ability. Some pick up sites are more spacious than others. If you arrive at a pick up site and it seems too crowded with other drivers/staff, you can wait outside until it clears out. You should still have plenty of time to accomplish your route.

Q:   When I’m packing up, how do I know how many meals I should have?

A:    The last page of your route sheet has a summary of all of the meals you will be delivering.

Q:   You say that you “will be tired” at the end of the day. Can you help me understand if I can do this?

A:    At no time do you have to be able to lift more than 25 pounds (although you might need to take a couple of trips out to your car from the staging sites with your bags), but we emphasize that you may be tired, because people don’t generally know to take into account how just generally physical it is to drive, stop, get the right meal, deliver it, and get back in the car 30 times in a fairly short amount of time – all while concentrating on your checklist of the procedure for dropping things off, maintaining social distance, etc.. None of it is in and of itself physically or mentally demanding – but all together it is physically and mentally taxing.

Q:   Where do I have to be at 10:00 – on my way, at the staging site, or out delivering meals? When will I be done?

A:  It depends on where you are driving. At this point, the deliveries to our staging sites are staggered, and so we are no longer able to do a single pick up time for all drivers. Some routes will require that you be at your staging site at 10:00 (Belmont, Waltham, & Watertown), and others have an 11:00 arrival time (Brookline, Newton, Wellesley & Weston). In addition, to accommodate social distancing, there is sometimes a need to wait outside the staging site for the number of people inside to come down. Arriving at the staging sites at 10 or 11, should give you enough time to pick up your route sheets, pack the corresponding meals, and get on the road with enough time to complete your route by 1:00.  Your route should take between an hour and a half and two hours. Occasionally other factors (if everyone on your route is getting a double meal, if your route has a few more than the usual 25 – 30 people on it that day) can make it take a little bit longer. So, while you should be on your way home by 1:00, we can’t guarantee it.

Q:   What are the rules about masking? 

A:   All Home-Delivered Meals staff and volunteers must wear masks during their shifts. Please understand that we cannot eliminate all risk associated with this volunteer opportunity, and make your decision about whether you can participate accordingly. We support you in that, too!

If you do not have access to masks, please talk to your site staff about getting one from Springwll.


New(er) information. For both new and experienced volunteers 

Q:   What should I do if I wake up with a fever or other illness on a day I am scheduled to deliver meals?

A:    Please cancel your shift! Our updated Safety and Sanitation Recommendations now includes a request that all drivers do a wellness assessment each morning that they drive, including a temperature check, to limit exposure to known illnesses. Symptoms to especially note and respond to are cough, difficulty breathing and fever.

Q:   The route sheets are really inefficiently plotted out. Is there any way to fix this to save time/gas/the environment?

A:    We will be working in the coming days and weeks to see what, if anything, we can do to address this before the route sheet gets to you, but until then, we have learned that the Mapquest App has a multi-route plotting feature that can accommodate up to 26 stops (as opposed to google maps, which can only do 9 at a time). If you download this app, when you receive your sheet in the morning, you can plug all the addresses in, and it will re-order them into a more efficient route. You are welcome to do this, or change the order of your route in any way that makes sense to you.

Q:   What do I do if a senior isn’t home?/doesn’t answer the phone?/doesn’t come to the door?

A:    This happens sometimes. 1) Don’t leave the meal! 2) Call Donlyn ASAP 617-957-2052 and let her know the senior’s name and phone number – she will follow up. 3) At the end of the route either take home or dispose of the meal.

Q:   Some seniors want to give me a cash donation – they can be insistent. What should I do?

A:    Please continue to refuse all donations. You are welcome to remind people that Springwell accepts donations if they really want to make one (we know that sometimes people are insistent), but if you do, please re-assure them that no donation is expected, and their meal is not in any way dependent on a contribution. ​

Q:   What should I do if I have to cancel a route I have signed up for?

A:    Please email the Nutrition Department (nutrition@springwell.com) as soon as possible. Please DO NOT remove your name from the schedule. Depending on when we get the information, we will need to troubleshoot coverage differently. Even if you are cancelling a week out, we would prefer to make that change/open that slot ourselves.

Q:   I want to reserve my favorite route every day. Is that possible, or do I have to sign up individually?

A:    For people who want to make multi-day, multi-week commitments to a single route – thank you! Please contact Karen (kchicholm@springwell.com) so that we can get you set up. If your preferred route is available, we can bulk fill, and lock your schedule in.

Q:   I have a preferred route, but can only do a day or so at a time, and I’m not sure about my schedule long-term. When I check, my preferred route is usually filled. What should I do?

A:    If you have a preferred route that is popular, you might find yourself in this situation – you are still needed! Especially if you are willing to be a back up for that specific route. Please contact Dalia (dcohen@springwell.com ) with your information so that we can compile a “go-to” list for each route to deal with cancellations – either in advance or last minute (just let us know what you’re up for). As we fill out this list for our (growing, yay!) list of volunteers, it can help us manage holes in the schedule more efficiently, and decrease the amount of time you need to spend reviewing and signing up on the schedule.

Q: What do I do if a Springwell senior on my route calls me? Should I be blocking my calls?

When calling seniors on your route, please dial *67 before their number so as to block your number from their phones. We have had a number of instances where seniors have called volunteers and want to prevent that in the future. If you receive a call from a senior on your route, please do not answer, and if you do accidentally pick it up, refer them to Springwell’s main reception number 617-926-4100. Thank you.



A guide to the meal packs

We are working on getting visuals examples of each of the types of meals together for the staging sites to support you in packing up your meals. In the meantime, here are examples of each type of meal and the accompanying cold pack that goes with it. As always your Lead Driver or Site Staff should be able to answer any questions you might have.

Regular meal & cold pack (note, no sticker).                  

Cold supper meal pack:

Therapeutic meal (cardiac) & cold pack , (note, matching brown sticker) :

Therapeutic meal (renal) & cold pack, (note, matching orange sticker):

Therapeutic meal (low-lactose) & cold pack, (note, matching black sticker):

Kosher meal & cold pack:

Chinese meal & cold pack:

Therapeutic meal (modified) & cold pack, (note, matching purple/pink sticker/tray):

Therapeutic meal (puree) & cold pack, (note, matching green sticker) :

Therapeutic meal (soft) & cold pack, (note, matching yellow sticker):