“I have to get dressed because the Meals on Wheels people are coming,” Steve’s 92-year-old mother tells him on the phone. Monday through Friday a Meals on Wheels volunteer stops by her house to deliver a hot, nutritious meal that she divides between lunch and dinner. Some days, the volunteer is the only person she visits with.
Steve’s mom is one of the 50 adults in Santa Clara who receive Meals on Wheels. “It’s great. My mom gets a balanced meal every day. She likes the meals. I don’t know how much she would eat if the meals didn’t come,” says Steve. “The service helps my mom to live independently. She’s been in her home since 1951, and she wants to stay there.”
On March 23 City Council member Lisa Gillmor was one of the Meals on Wheels volunteers in Santa Clara. Approximately 1,300 elected leaders nationwide—a record number—delivered meals that day as part of the 2011 Mayors for Meals Day. This sixth annual event, scheduled during Senior Nutrition month, was sponsored by the Meals on Wheels Association of America (www.mowaa.org).
“It’s a tremendous program that the City should support,” says Gillmor. “It was a great experience for me to see how important it is to our seniors and those in need.”
Gillmor recalled a great aunt who had received Meals on Wheels. “Just as important as the balanced meal, was the driver who checked on her well being and health. She became a friend.”
Gillmor recognized the woman she delivered a meal to on Wednesday as a retired community officer for the police department.”I remember her from when I was in grammar school and our class toured the department,” Gillmor says.
Nancy Lietzke and Dorothy Moore, both from Saratoga, have been delivering Meals on Wheels together for more than five years. It has strengthened their friendship. Also, when one goes on vacation, the other can handle deliveries alone. Volunteers pick up the freshly-prepared meals at the Food Basket, 1043 Garland Avenue, San Jose.
“As volunteers, we really do get more out of it than we give,” Lietzke says. “You get to know people. You don’t just arrive at the door and drop off a meal. Sometimes we talk with people as long as thirty minutes. It depends on what they want. We give them a pat on the back or a touch on the hand or a hug. When you live alone, no one touches you.”
“If someone doesn’t answer the door, you don’t just leave. You check out the situation and call the [Meals on Wheels] office,” she says. “One time a man fell in the bathroom. His hand was stuck in the grab bar, and he couldn’t get up to get help. We had to call 9-1-1.”
Meals on Wheels are provided for homebound adults throughout Santa Clara County by the nonprofit foundation Health Trust (www.healthtrust.org), which delivered more than 100,000 meals in 2010. The meals are provided free—as long as the funds are available—to those who cannot afford to pay. Others pay what they are able to, up to $8/meal. Information: (408) 961-9807.
In Santa Clara, 58% of the Meals on Wheels clients have low to very low incomes. Nine low-income adults are on the waiting list. Funds come from a combination of federal money and individual, corporate, and city donors. The program is being expanded to include supplemental delivery of bags of groceries twice a month on Saturdays.
“There’s a big need out there. Many elderly are basically alone. You’re only one step away—one fall—from not being able to stay in your own home unless you have a support system,” says Lietzke.