On Oct. 24, 15 students from St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center dressed in fun and festive Halloween costumes to deliver meals to Meals on Wheels East County clients. SMSC began volunteering with Meals on Wheels San Diego County East County Service Center in 2016, delivering meals Monday through Friday, connecting with more than 80 Meals on Wheels clients every week.
Meals on Wheels San Diego County East County Service Center Director Tim Ray said celebrating the Halloween season with St. Madeleine students was also a celebration of the seven-year partnership with SMSC.
“Their students have been wonderful volunteers with us through our Adopt-A-Route program, that provides a teambuilding opportunity for businesses and community groups,” he said. “Whether it be one route a month, one route a week. With SMSC, they have adopted five daily routes, five days a week. They see more than 80 people a day and they are always the most loving volunteers. All our volunteers are wonderful, but SMSC students have this exuberance about themselves with infectious smiles. They are always so delighted to deliver, and all this is reciprocated by our clients.”
Ray said he is always getting compliments about the students and is told what joy the students bring to clients every day.
“Most of our clients are isolated,” he said. “Many have no family. No friends. They are not connected to their neighbors. Our volunteers are the only people they may see that day. In some cases, for the entire week. We are blessed to have the partnership with SMSC that we do,”
Ray said the students are loved by the staff at Meals on Wheels.
“They come into our office and share their stories with their different engagements with our clients,” he said. “So, we are thrilled. It is a reciprocated relationship with our volunteers and our clients. They become like families.”
Ray said many times, if a volunteer is not available for their route for some reason, clients will call to ensure that their delivery volunteer is doing okay. He said if the students notice that their clients are not home, or answering, they will call the Center and ask if the client is okay. Which is a huge part of Meals on Wheels mission.
“We provide a safety check for our clients,” he said. “We have a tagline, ‘We’re more than a meal.’ Not only do we provide a healthy meal for our clients, but our volunteers are required to do a safety check. To make direct contact with that person to ensure that they are okay. Many lives have been saved as the results of our volunteers.”
Ray said if clients do not answer, or are seen in distress, MOW calls 9-1-1 immediately.
SMSC CEO Debra Emerson said it has been a wonderful experience working with Meals on Wheels.
“Especially for our students. And the seniors. That is a win-win for everybody,” she said. “We do a lot of community work in the community because we want to give back. How we do it also gives our students experience. Our students like getting out in the community and that is our integration for them.”
Ray said the largest problem Meals on Wheels is facing today is a lack of volunteers.
“We are in desperate need of volunteers,” he said. “We serve over 1,800 clients throughout San Diego, and we are struggling just to meet that need. There are thousands of other seniors in San Diego that are unserved and need our services. The only way that we can reach those people is by increasing our volunteer force. We are reaching out to the community and pleading with them that if have one or two hours a month, you could do one route for us, and you would have a huge impact on the lives of seniors.”
Emerson said the event was fun for the students, being Halloween themed, even though it was a bit early.
“The students loved dressing up. The seniors loved seeing them dressed up. I saw one giving them candy. It was another special way to celebrate people with disabilities and the seniors,” she said. “Both of them are kind of isolated from the community in different ways. This gives them a great experience to meet new people, and maybe, break down some of the barriers that are out there in our world.”
For more information, visit www.meals-on-wheels.org.
Source: East County Californian