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Meals on Wheels helps seniors in San Gabriel Valley

By Richard Irwin, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

2006 days ago   Article ID# 38610
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Meals on Wheels

WEST COVINA, CALIFORNIA (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) - Lorraine Weikal, 83, looks forward to her daily visit from Meals on Wheels volunteers.

For the white-haired Hacienda Heights resident, they're more than meals, they're family friends.

That seems to be the prevailing feeling at the Greater La Puente Valley Meals on Wheels. One could say the volunteers also feed the spirit of the senior citizens they serve.

"It's like visiting your grandmother or grandfather, they become part of your family," said Charles House, board member and immediate past president of the local organization.

This Meals on Wheels chapter serves 75 people every weekday.

"We have clients from Hacienda Heights and La Puente to West Covina and Diamond Bar," House said. "But we need new drivers desperately. We have a waiting list of people in La Puente whom we can't serve now."

Drivers volunteer to deliver meals in their own communities. Their routes usually take two or three hours, beginning at 10 a.m. when they pick up the meals from Citrus Valley Medical Center Queen of the Valley Campus in West Covina.

Anne-Lize DeGraaf of Hacienda Heights is a typical driver. The 68-year-old retiree drives the Meals on Wheels route in her community every Wednesday.

"I love to do this, the seniors are very friendly. They really appreciate our visits," DeGraaf said. "Some don't see other people except for our drivers, so we take time to talk with them."

Over the years, the bonds build until everyone feels like family.

DeGraaf wanted to do community work after she retired, so she jumped at the chance to work with Meals on Wheels when House's wife, Martha, asked her to become a driver.

Martha House is also a member of the organization's board of directors.

"She's been working with this organization for more than 20 years," her proud husband said. In fact, the Hacienda Heights couple delivers the meals on Christmas Day every year, so the regular drivers can enjoy the holiday with their families.

"Meals on Wheels is very rewarding because many of the people cannot go to the store themselves," DeGraaf said.

On a recent visit, Weikal leaned on her walker as she moved from the living room to the kitchen to sample her meal.

"This really helps me out," said the bright-eyed octogenarian. "They even know I'm a diabetic and make my meals accordingly."

Seniors with other special dietary needs are also catered to by the hospital.

Recipients receive a healthy lunch and dinner every weekday. Lunches include a sandwich, a salad and juice. A hot dinner is also delivered with an entree and dinner roll.

"The food is very, very good," Weikal said. "But the company is even better."

There's Bill on Monday, Ron on Tuesday, Annelize on Wednesday, Erma on Thursday and Hugh on Friday.

"We're all friends. I know their families and hobbies, so we talk about that every week," Weikal said.

Whenever a regular driver is off on vacation or sick, the senior gets to chat with the substitute driver.

The seniors pay only $3.90 a day for the meal service. They'd be hard-pressed to find such bargains at the local supermarket.

"We're a volunteer group, we only have one paid position. She schedules the drivers and fills in whenever we need a substitute," Charles House said.

He added that drivers get five gallons of gasoline a day to offset their vehicle expenses.

"We have more demand for our services, so we also need donations to pay for our expenses," House said.

Copyright 2014 San Gabriel Valley Tribune   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 2006 days ago   Article ID# 38610

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