Meals on Wheels Volunteers and Clients: Benefits for Both Sides – T.S. Owen

Rev-JAN-03One of the most striking things about the Culver Palms Meals on Wheels program is that many of the volunteer drivers and deliverers are from the same generation as their clients. When they arrive and knock on the door, the clients, on average in their 70s, are expecting them as perhaps their only social contact of their day. The hour of food and companionship is a daily highlight.
Culver Palms Meals on Wheels (CPMOW) started last century in Marina del Rey. Today it is based in Grace Lutheran Evangelical Church on Overland, where nine driver-deliverer teams of volunteers deliver one hot and one cold meal to some 90 clients five days a week. Clients are infirm, handicapped, mentally or physical challenged, recuperating from hospital stays, bedridden and unable to cook for themselves.
“Our volunteers are from local organizations, individuals, and groups,” said Director Pam Frieden. Many are long term, as in decades of weekly service delivering meals to those who cannot cook for themselves, which was the original reason Meals on Wheels began in 1943.
Besides nutritious food, Meals on Wheels is a check on those who live alone. “If no one answers the door, we can leave the food in a cooler or container, and we notify the office so they can call to inform the client their meal is waiting for them,” Frieden said.
The current CPMOW program costs $60,000 a year to run. Funding is from donations from individuals, businesses and community groups, with a little from grants. The $7 charged those clients who can afford to pay does not come close to the expenses, so sponsor support is vital. Frieden would like to add a lunch to the menu, which would cost an additional $55,000.
In Culver City, each cold and hot meal must be put into the bag for their route, with special orders and diets marked for each client. The organization changes daily, depending on clients who opt out, or in, or change. Scheduling must be adjusted daily for the packers to get the right meals in the right bags and drivers get directions to each client. Old time volunteers remember having to navigate with a city map and magnifying glass; they are thankful for the existence of GPS.
The Culver City Senior Center delivers regular meals to members. Those with special diet requirements are passed on to CPMOW, which has its meals prepared at St. Vincent’ Catholic Church downtown. There, 4,800 meals are prepared daily for groups across Los Angeles including clients with diabetes, low sodium, low vitamin K, renal and vegetarian restrictions, Kosher, soft and pureed food requirements.
Take a look at the book for any of CPMOW’s nine routes from Pico Blvd to Westchester and you’ll find client birthdates starting in the 1920s. They are able to stay at home and out of residential care facilities with the help of groups like Meals on Wheels, one of the most successful social solutions in America, according to MOWA President Ellie Hollander.
Some of CPMOW’s current clients were once volunteers, a cycle that will likely continue as Boomers age. An organization formed in the chaos of war continues to meet needs now formed by the ravages of aging, manned by humanitarian volunteers whose compassion drives them to meet the need. For more information on volunteering, donating or becoming a client, call 310.559.0666.

The Actors' Gang


  1. This is very nice and I applaud the volunteers. However, People living alone need more than meals. If they can’t prepare meals they obviously can’t do other things for themselves as well.
    There is always that fear that they may slip and fall and be on the floor in pain for hours. They also need companionship.
    Residing in a facility for the elderly is really better . They have people who can help them, they have recreational activities, someone to look after them. Staff to give medications etc.

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