Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new numbers from Meals on Wheels’ CEO

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Record prices at the pump are putting pain on one local nonprofit.

Henry Van de Putte, Meals on Wheels Central Texas CEO, said gas prices are affecting the group’s costs and volunteers.

The Associated Press reports that gas prices have been increasing since April 2020, when the initial shock of the pandemic drove prices under $1.80 a gallon, according to government data.

The national average hit a record of five dollars per gallon on Saturday, according to AAA. The average price of gas in Texas is $4.688 per gallon.

Van de Putte said they are over budget for gas costs by about $6,000 per month.

The secondary impact of that, he said, is a drop-in volunteers during summer months when they typically are already low.

“We’ve heard from volunteers that have said, ‘We’d love to do more. But, you know, this is what I can do right now.’ And we think that is, you know– we understand, I mean, this has hit everybody,” Van de Putte said.

He said so far, they’ve been able to dip into savings to absorb the rising costs of gas.

“There’s no end in sight right now. The gas prices keep going up,” he said. “We can’t keep up.”

Van de Putte said in about a month and a half, they may be forced to scale back on delivery days.

“We will never put our meals at risk,” he said. “Older adults who need it, they’re always going to get a meal. But if the rising cost keeps going… the model of daily delivery could be jeopardized. And that’s that’s where we may have to scale it back to maybe three days a week or two days a week.”

That’s what Meals on Wheels did during the pandemic– dropping off multiple meals at once that could be refrigerated or frozen.

But they don’t want to do that again, Van de Putte said.

“The unforeseen circumstances of that are these… older adults who are isolated in their homes because of a myriad of issues, they’re not getting that social interaction five times a week, they’re not getting someone checking on them five days a week,” he said.

He said in the first week they resumed fully normal operations in April, at least three volunteers said they had to call 911 for their clients.

“Because the person that we’re delivering a meal to, they could hear them through the door, but they had fallen,” he recalled. “If that just happened in the very first week we were open, imagine how many times we weren’t there.”

The check-ins are welcome for Bernardo Curiano, a client of more than 20 years.

He became blind about 40 years ago after a tragic car accident.

“At first, I’m really nervous because from something to nothing,” he said.

He was able to adapt but as he gets older, some things, like cooking, are getting harder to do.

“[It takes] forever because it’s hard for me to cut or to do the preparation because I do not see very well,” he said.

Combined with his hearing problems, socializing is also difficult.

“Sometimes I heard somebody say, ‘How you doing?’ And I thought he was talking to me, but actually, he’s on the phone. This is very embarrassing,” Curiano recalled.

He said one of his past Meals on Wheels volunteers has now become a friend, still visiting with him on his own time.

Anna McMaster has also seen the social impact of volunteering in just the short time she’s started regular routes, even bringing her two sons along for a couple days.

“They were singing a little song and walking up to people’s doors and it was just really, really sweet to see the reaction of the seniors when they saw my sons,” she said. “One of them just wanted to pinch my son’s cheeks. The other one said, ‘Well, thank you, sir. Thank you so much.'”

McMaster, who owns a company called CarePatrol, helps people find assisted living and memory care facilities.

“I work with seniors and recognize that a lot of people fall through the cracks and Meals on Wheels is literally a lifeline for them. So I had to get involved,” she said.

It’s why she’s trying to get some of her friends to sign up as volunteers, too.

“I recognize that not everybody is able to do this,” McMaster said. “But at the same time, I want people to know how easy it is… Even if you can’t do a weekly route, you could always sign up as a substitute just when they need extra people, especially during the summer where there’s vacations.”

“The meal… is medicine, it keeps people healthy, it keeps people alive. But the social aspect of what our programs can do are just as important,” Van de Putte said.

You can find an application to volunteer on this page.