Meals on Wheels Diablo Region is More Than Food Delivery

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(Kathy Enzerink, Photographer)
At Orinda Senior Village, County Connection driver Amy Hako (L) hands a cooler of five frozen meals with fresh fruit and milk to Meals on Wheels Diablo Region employee Brian Underwood.

    Meals on Wheels (MOW) Diablo Region volunteers deliver more than 300 nutritious meals weekly to housebound Orinda seniors. Prior to COVID-19, hot, ready-to-eat meals were prepared and delivered five days per week. The in-person deliveries provided a safety check as well as often being the only human interaction the senior had all day.
    “When COVID hit, we were like air traffic controllers during rush hour at O’Hare,” said Sherry Nadworny, director of development and community relations, referring to Chicago’s busiest airport. “Now, we deliver frozen meals once a week. We wait for the client to answer when the food, in a bag, is placed at the door. Our safety checks are now from a distance.”
    Delivered meals, based on need not income, are provided to housebound people 60 years or older, not able to drive, unable to prepare food themselves or without a caregiver to prepare their meals.
    Meal deliveries have increased 40% throughout the county since COVID-19 hit. In March, Orinda had two delivery routes. Now it has three. With increased expenses agency-wide, MOW Diablo Region announced a holiday fundraising campaign, the No Show Gala. Participants are requested to donate the amount of money which would’ve been spent on evening attire, tickets and related costs, “to an event that you would rather not go to.”
    Pre-COVID, volunteers were able to load the hot meals into their vehicles for delivery to their assigned clients. Now, the frozen meals are stored in bulky coolers, making deliveries a challenge unless the driver has a big SUV or van.
    “The size of the deliveries is so large, few of our volunteer’s cars can accommodate all the meals for their whole route,” said Nadworny. “Our friends at County Connection pitched in to help.” Where needed, coolers are loaded into the CC buses and transported, with the volunteer, for delivery. Now the senior gets an extra smile and wave from the driver. “We always adapt,” said County Connection driver Jeff Blair. “There was a need and we wanted to help.”
    Serving Contra Costa County for more than 50 years, MOW Diablo Region is the only area agency which delivers meals and offers additional services.
    The Care Management program provides confidential guidance to help older adults and their families meet long-term care needs and deal with problems such as housing, elder abuse and depression. More than 800 seniors, county-wide, use these services each year.
    The Fall Prevention program helps reduce preventable injuries that would otherwise lead to loss of independence and significant healthcare costs. Falls are the largest reason for seniors to be admitted to hospitals and nursing homes, according to Nadworny. The program focuses on a combination of education and exercise endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control. “Additionally, many of our clients receive critical in-home safety improvements every year,” Nadworny said.
    “Isolation is one of the major issues,” the Director said. “Seniors become ‘The Hidden Hungry’ when their world gets small.” Volunteers make phone calls and in-person, distanced visits as part of the Friendly Visitors/Callers Program.
    Located at 1300 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek, MOW Diablo Region accepts dry goods, adult diapers and kitty litter donations year-round. For details, visit www.mowdiabloregion.org.

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