Ronnie Gilbert hesitated to open his front door Friday morning when he saw two Dawson County Sheriff’s deputies approaching.
“I didn’t know what they were doing here,” he said after learning the deputies were delivering Meals on Wheels. “But I’m sure glad they’re here.”
When snow and ice blanketed Dawson County last week, operations like Meals on Wheels were temporarily halted, leaving more than 100 area seniors without their daily meals.
“Our drivers couldn’t get in to make the deliveries,” said Margie Weaver, director of the Dawson County Senior Center, which oversees the program. “It’s a helpless feeling knowing we couldn’t get to them.”
With school out, sheriff’s deputies typically assigned as school resource officers spent the week filling in. As the snow first arrived, they began checking on the elderly by phone.
Over the next few days, they also shoveled snow and ice from handicap ramps, picked up prescriptions and shopped for necessities like milk and bread.
In addition, they delivered hot meals and commodity packages to homebound seniors.
Margaret Marteny could recall being stuck at home due to the weather only a few times in the two decades she has lived in the county.
“I’m so surprised they came out to check on me,” she said. “First the sheriff’s [deputies] called. Then they came out and brought food. I’m just so thrilled.
“I told my neighbor and she couldn’t believe it either.”
Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Greg Rowan said he is proud the office has the resources and capabilities to provide the service.
“You’ve got to be able to take care of your community,” he said. “Our residents need government entities that are concerned enough to go out and check on them.”
A government loan program made transportation to the county’s most remote areas in the snow possible, Rowan said.
Last May, the sheriff’s office received a 1993 Hummer military ambulance and four-wheel drive ambulance from the national Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services.
“They’re ours as long as we need them and are using them,” Rowan said. “And they cost us nothing except maintenance.”
Last week’s storm was the first chance the department had to use the vehicles in a disaster-type situation.
“We are so thankful,” Weaver said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”