Meals on Wheels West (MOWW) works to provide healthy, fresh meals to homebound people on a daily basis in the coastal communities of Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, Venice, Pacific Palisades, Malibu, and the Topanga Canyon area.

Residents of these communities who are homebound and unable to shop or cook for themselves are eligible for the meals, and can contact the organization with concerns regarding eligibility.

“Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of the service provided by Meals on Wheels West,” said RoseMary Regalbuto, president and CEO of the organization. “One misconception is that the service is only for seniors, but that’s not the case. No matter why a person is homebound – age, health, a disability – they face two major difficulties: poor nutrition and loneliness.

The mission of Meals on Wheels is to nourish and enrich the lives of the homebound by delivering healthy meals and services that promote self-respect and independent living.

“Meals on Wheels West helps by bringing homebound people both food and friendship. We deliver more than just meals; we deliver smiles a meal at a time. This is often the only contact our clients have with the outside world,” she said.

Regalbuto, who has been with Meals on Wheels West for 25 years, noted that over 90,000 meals were delivered last year.

Many of the meal recipients get two-thirds of their daily minimum requirement for nutrition from the program, she said.

“We are committed to maintaining the trust of our homebound disabled and elderly clients and providing the best quality of service,” she said. “It is important for our clients, volunteers and financial contributors to feel safe and protected.

“Your security is just as important, and we want you to know that you are in trusted company. To reach this goal, Meals on Wheels West is asking every paid staff member and volunteer to complete a background check.”

Volunteers are a critical factor in the success of MOWW, she said. All meals are delivered by volunteers in their own vehicles on one of several routes.

Every weekday, a hot lunch and cold dinner, the daily newspaper, fresh fruit and companionship are delivered to people who are homebound. Frozen meals are also provided for the weekend. At MOWW, 88 cents of every dollar goes to fresh meals, according to Regalbuto.

One volunteer said when the group delivers food to participants, it’s a good way to ensure that they are well and that nothing has happened to them.

The volunteer recounted the story of bringing food to a woman in her 90s. After not receiving an answer at the door, the volunteer went around the side of the house and called out. She could hear someone responding, and the woman said she had fallen a day or two before and needed assistance. The volunteer then called the paramedics, who took the woman to the hospital.

Meals onWheels West has been a certified nutrition program since 1999. The national certification designates that the organization has met or exceeded organizational accountability in its administrative and fiscal policies and procedures and has complied with the industry criteria for quality of service.

The nutritional quality of the meals is overseen by a Los Angeles County dietician. Special meals for individuals with diabetes, or meals that are required to be low in sodium and other requirements are part of the program.

“Our volunteers are greatly appreciated, and we always welcome new volunteers,” said Kevin McNulty, associate executive director, who assists Regalbuto and the 12-member board of directors in completing various initiatives. He also performs daily tasks to ensure that the office operates according to procedures and needs.

Donations are a large part of the funding for the MOWW services, Regalbuto said. Grants from the city of Santa Monica and the county of Los Angeles also provide financial assistance.

Both individuals and companies can make a giant difference in someone’s life, she said. Donations of $30 can feed five people for one day; while $42 feeds one person for an entire week; $186 provides meals and friendly faces for one person for a full month; and $2,190 provides one person’s daily meals and the ability to live independently with dignity for a year, said Regalbuto.

MOWW doesn’t have a kitchen, so meals are prepared at commercial kitchen facilities, including large hotels, and are given to MOWW for delivery to clients by volunteers.

The “Adopt” program is a consistent weekly/monthly commitment “to be of service” through financial support, or in-kind or volunteer support. Employers can sponsor a volunteer opportunity for their employees. Adopt-a-Route allows employees to deliver meals regularly. Delivery occurs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Support must be a consistent weekly/monthly commitment and the volunteer coordinator can be contacted for information.

Planned giving includes the new Legacy Planning Program to provide thousands of meals for years to come. Some benefits include: transferring more assets and property to heirs; getting charitable tax deductions now for giving later; liquidating real estate in a tax-advantaged way; securing a lifetime income; and minimizing income, capital gain and wealth transfer tax. Regalbuto can be contacted for more information on the program.

Vehicles, no matter what age or condition, can be donated and picked up. Information is available online by clicking on “Donate” and scrolling down to “Vehicles.”

The Meals on Wheels West staff, in addition to Regalbuto and McNulty, includes Joanna Vasquez, director of operations, Maggie Talai, volunteer liaison, and Branka Sahbegovic, community outreach.

Meals on Wheels West is at 1823-A Michigan Ave., Santa Monica.

Information, (310) 394-5133, or www.mealsonwheelswest.org.

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