The Contra Costa County Meals on Wheels division, operated by Senior Outreach Services, delivers 750 meals to seniors throughout the county every week, and the need for volunteers is ongoing. After recent budget cuts, Meals on Wheels Program Manager Sharon Fitzgerald is in need of nine drivers to pick up shifts in Antioch, Pittsburg and Bay Point.
“We’re the only program in the county that delivers warm, nutritious meals to seniors, 60 years and older, at no cost to our clients,” Fitzgerald said. “For about a third of our seniors, a Meals on Wheels delivery is the only meal they’ll have all day. Volunteers are the hearts and hands of our programs, and we need people now more than ever. I’ve never seen a demand like this before.”
Meals on Wheels serves homebound seniors who are unable to either shop or cook for themselves. According to the Meals on Wheels Association of America, 8.3 million seniors throughout the nation are faced with the threat of hunger.
For Antioch resident Sal Lucido, Meals on Wheels is a lifesaver. Sal’s wife Sophie used to cook all the family meals, but now that she’s developed dementia, she’s unable to provide healthy meals for the couple, leaving Sal to whip up meals.
“I’m 96, and I’ve never cooked before,” Sal said. “I can put something in the microwave, but that’s not all that healthy. Meals on Wheels provides us with a healthy meal, so I know that we’re eating right. It makes things a lot easier, and it takes away a lot of the stress of not knowing if you’re going to have something for dinner or not.”
Fitzgerald said another important component of the Meals on Wheels program is the interaction between the delivery drivers and the seniors. For some Meals on Wheels clients, the interaction with the delivery driver is the only socializing they’ll get that day, so the personal connection is just as valuable.
“Our drivers develop relationships with our clients,” Fitzgerald said. “They become like members of the family. It helps for seniors to know that they have someone looking out for them.”
Meals on Wheels volunteers are asked to pick up one two-hour shift per week. Deliveries are made between 10 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday. Drivers typically make 12 to 16 deliveries per shift. To qualify, drivers must have their own transportation and liability insurance, and pay for their own gas.
Volunteer orientations are held at the Antioch Senior Center. Fitzgerald is also in need of relief drivers to fill in when volunteers miss a shift. For more information about how to volunteer, e-mail Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 925-937-8607.