By Gina Yarbrough
CHULA VISTA–Meals on Wheels San Diego County held Saturday its 47th annual South County Volunteer Appreciation event to honor, recognize, and safely celebrate its south county volunteers who have worked tirelessly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in communities that continue to be hit hard by the coronavirus.
About 125 volunteers participated in a drive-thru luncheon at Norman Park Center parking lot in Chula Vista to celebrate their commitment to Meals on Wheels while safely social distancing in their cars. The tasty lunch was provided by Phil’s BBQ for each volunteer in attendance, as well as a certificate that acknowledges years of service and a gift, and attendees enjoyed the sweet sounds of Serenitysingers, a group of women who volunteer their time and talent to provide healing and comfort through song to residents in the Chula Vista area.
Meals on Wheels San Diego County has about 200 volunteers that service the south county. Due to the pandemic, their clients have doubled, but not the volunteer pool.
“Some volunteers, themselves, are working on routes six days a week, and some come down a couple times a month,” Brent Wakefield, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels San Diego County, said. “We are always in need of volunteers in San Diego, particularly in south county. This route grew quite a bit. It almost doubled so it’s a significant growth during the pandemic.”
Since social distancing restrictions took effect last spring, Meals on Wheels San Diego County has seen a 47 percent increase in the number of older adults receiving home-delivered meals and other services. The food delivery service serves more than 2,000 clients each month.
Although COVID-19 restrictions mean that volunteers can no longer enter homes during deliveries, they still talk with seniors outside from a safe distance for a few minutes while wearing a face mask and gloves.
Tom Rodriguez is one of many active volunteers with Meals on Wheels in San Diego county. He also serves as a member of the organization’s board of trustees.
“What I got the most out of, quite frankly, in my heart, is volunteering,” Rodriguez said. “We’re the only person this client sees all day.”
The nonprofit organization is in need of more volunteers to provide more than meals, they ensure homebound seniors are safe.
Visit meals-on-wheels.org for more information on how to get involved.