La Jolla Meals on Wheels seeks volunteers; Friendly Visitors connect with seniors

BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT:

Half a million meals. That's approximately how many meals have been delivered by La Jolla Meals on Wheels since it began in 1974. Those are clients who live exclusively in the La Jolla or University City areas, making that 500,000 number all the more impressive.

"We are neighbors serving neighbors, getting meals out to people in need and also serving the volunteer needs of the community that wants to be involved," said Beth Penny, community liaison for La Jolla Meals on Wheels, which has been at work longer than the San Diego Meals on Wheels. "It's a win-win for everyone."

La Jolla Meals on Wheels has been around so long, Penny points out, that some of its volunteers have eventually become clients. Clients pay $7.50 for each meal, one that, according to Penny is hot, ready to eat and nutritious. "In general," she said, "our monthly menu is designed by some wonderful young dietitians who keep in mind a healthy diet that is still delicious and nutritious."

Presently, La Jolla Meals on Wheels has 124 volunteers — men, women and even children. "We have a group from All Hallows Academy that delivers once a month," said Penny. "We have people who have driven for more than 30 years. It's not really just about the food. It's about the contact (for clients) and about the independence that it brings."

Penny, who has a nursing background, has a strong history of volunteerism, most recently as the PTA president and Foundation president at La Jolla High School. She's particularly excited about the "ramping up" of La Jolla Meals on Wheels' existing program called Friendly Visitors.

"If you're a volunteer for La Jolla Meals on Wheels, you deliver once a month," she explained. "If you would like to invest more time, these Friendly Visitors are connected with a senior and they go and visit once a week. There's no cost to the senior. This is totally out of the goodness of the heart of the visitor. It's based on a program that was started in Alameda that has really taken off. So far we've had great success with not only people wanting the service but with people wanting to provide the service."

The Friendly Visitors visit for just an hour or so, but that hour is very meaningful, said Penny, for "some people who love to just sit and chat for a little while."

If you're interested in becoming a volunteer for La Jolla Meals on Wheels, you can get the wheels in motion, so to speak, by visiting lajollamealsonwheels.org or calling (858) 452-0391. La Jolla Meals on Wheels, is at 9888 Genesee Ave., La Jolla. Office hours: 7:30 to 11:30 a.m., Monday-Friday.

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