Meals On Wheels volunteer ‘fired’ for refusing to drop off meals at upscale condos

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – A Meals On Wheels volunteer may no longer be delivering food in Pinellas County after she refused to drop off meals to people at an upscale condo complex.

Helen Barnes enjoyed being among dozens who bring hot meals to those in need.

“I look forward to every Thursday,” Barnes said.

But a delivery to the Harbor Oaks condos in Clearwater stopped her in her tracks.

“I realized, why are we delivering to these wealthy people who can call a deli or Publix or McDonald’s and get their food delivered?” she asked.

Helen says she and her partner refused to drop off meals at the complex, which boasts waterfront views and an upscale lifestyle, twice.

“I said, I really don’t want to. I mean, if somebody’s got more money than I do, ya know, why am I delivering? Ya know, they can get their own,” Barnes recalled saying to her bosses.

But the non-profit’s marketing director disagrees with Barnes.

“Unfortunately she kind of thought some people on that route didn’t deserve that food,” said Sandra Narron of Neighborly Care, the organization that runs Meals on Wheels in Pinellas County.

Narron said the non-profit assesses every applicant and some people pay to have food brought to them.

“We don’t distinguish between who pays and who doesn’t pay, whether they’ve got a nice house or whether they don’t have a nice house. That doesn’t matter to us. We’re there to help that client with the food they need” said Narron.

Helen says she misses her 22 clients and wants to return.

“I’ll do anything. I begged. I groveled,” she said.

Narron said Helen will be able to return once she gets retrained.  “As long as she’s willing to play by those rules, we want her back,” said Narron.

Barnes says she will comply.

Narron tells us this is the first time she’s had to let a volunteer go in her 26 years with the agency and is using Barnes’ story to remind readers that some people are house rich and cash poor.

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