By Brent Wakefield, President and CEO, Meals on Wheels San Diego County
The holidays are only weeks away, and the CDC has shared safer ways to celebrate as COVID-19 and its variants still impact the public. From vaccinations and masks to being outdoors, the country continues to bubble back to life daily, but not everyone will – or can – join in. Seniors are one such group. The past two years have delivered far less than holiday cheer as they struggled with social isolation, loneliness, and hunger more than ever.
Luckily, local senior nonprofit organizations stepped in. They have done the hard work year-round to keep seniors safe, healthy, and independent. I like to say, they are the boots on the ground in our senior communities – truly making a difference in seniors’ lives through empathy and support.
For organizations like Meals on Wheels San Diego County, the gratitude shown by local seniors as we step in to meet their nutrition needs makes every interaction worth it. Harvard research recently found, “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” We – and other senior-focused nonprofits – couldn’t imagine a better outcome from our services.
The momentum must continue – especially going into the holiday season. The power of community cannot be understated in supporting our local seniors. Banding together to help make the holidays special can take many forms.
Here are three ways you can positively impact the work of senior-related nonprofits this holiday season.
Donate monetarily: If you can make charitable contributions this year, consider giving back to local senior-related organizations to support San Diego’s older adults in need. Funds will not only help impactful programs continue year-round, but also assist in making the holidays extra special for seniors isolated to their homes, and away from their loved ones again this season. Also note, the IRS announced expanded tax benefits this past September for individuals and businesses interested in charitable giving.
Visit a senior near you: The need for volunteers has never been higher, and senior organizations are always in search of more giving individuals. Sometimes a volunteer is the only person our seniors see all day. For us, each volunteer helps keep our wheels rolling and has a profound impact on the seniors they encounter every day.
Assemble a care package filled with holiday cheer: A well-rounded care package is both practical, fun, and an easy way to tell a senior, “I Care.” Many charities have lists on their website for the specific items they need. Care items can also be coupled with personal notes of encouragement to help brighten their holidays and start the New Year off right.
Choosing a senior-related organization to support doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Online resources like GuideStar and Charity Navigator can assist in your search and provide valuable information for you to select an organization.
This holiday season, your time and money can help keep seniors in their home where they want to be – and that’s a beautiful thing. No act is too small. With your help, seniors can age with dignity, purpose, and security. We hope you’ll join in, recruit friends and neighbors, spread the word, and share some holiday cheer.
Brent Wakefield is the president and CEO of Meals on Wheels San Diego County, a nonprofit organization that supports the independence and well-being of seniors in need by delivering them nutritious meals. To see how you can get involved with Meals on Wheels, visit www.meals-on-wheels.org.