This month’s column features Irvine’s amazing “Meals on Wheels” program. So, it seemed only fitting to have the article written by our very own ICNV staff writer, Joel Smith, who is also a volunteer driver for Irvine’s Meals on Wheels program. Joel has previously written a series of articles for ICNV on sports in Irvine.
— Harvey H. Liss, Editor of the Senior Life — Youthful Lifestyle page
Operating out of the Lakeview Senior Center (LSC) in Woodbridge, the Irvine Meals on Wheels program has been serving Irvine senior residents for over 30 years. The mission of the program is “to assist eligible, homebound senior residents in maintaining their independence by providing nutritious, healthy, great tasting meals delivered to their homes.”
The program is jointly funded by the City of Irvine, the National Charity League (Irvine Chapter), State and federal agencies, and individual and corporate donors. Amazingly, 70,000 meals were delivered last year!
All of these were prepared at the remarkable Lakeview Senior Center kitchen — with the help of enthusiastic and passionate volunteers.
I personally started volunteering as a driver with the Meals on Wheels program about 6 months ago and deliver meals two Thursdays per month. I’ve been blown away by the work that they (and now, “we”) do. The City staff and volunteers are well-organized, preparing both hot and cold meals 5 days per week, Monday through Friday, for homebound Irvine seniors.
The extent of Irvine’s “hidden” homebound population surprised me because, of course, we rarely see the homebound out shopping, or otherwise out and about. Since I’m a sports coach in my daily job, I never really thought much about homebound seniors. However, the people I deliver to on my route are so warm and incredibly appreciative, it just makes me feel good, knowing how important my deliveries are to them.
Volunteer drivers, like me, come to the LSC at 11am to pick up their meals. Actually, we deliver three meals — a hot lunch from a heated container, a refrigerated dinner, and breakfast for the next morning. The much-appreciated meals are delivered to every neighborhood in Irvine. Each route is very well organized for the driver, with homes located near each other, minimizing travel time. Individual drivers deliver the meals to as many as 10 households in about an hour, allowing some time for chatting and socializing, which is such an important part of the Meals on Wheels program.
Training a new volunteer
I was fortunate, recently, to train a new volunteer on one of my runs, Cedric Wasano. Remarkably, the company Cedric works for — Fluidmaster — offers 24 hours per year of paid volunteer time that he will be using to deliver meals. The Meals on Wheels program enables businesses with a social conscience, like Fluidmaster, to lift the morale of their own employees while improving our Irvine community. I am fortunate that my regular job is mostly in the evenings and weekends, so this was a perfect opportunity to volunteer, and I just felt that I had to do this. Cedric felt the same way. As he put it, Irvine’s Meals on Wheels program provides an opportunity “to give back.”
There are other ways to volunteer, too, from helping out in the kitchen to packing the meals. Volunteers are needed and will likely be surprised at how rewarding and personally satisfying the experience is.