SUISUN CITY — Maria Wiley is happy to have Meals on Wheels of Solano County delivering lunches to the Suisun City Senior Center.
“If I was home, I couldn’t fix that type of meal,” she said of a Monday offering that included Irish stew and brocoli. “It’s a good, balanced meal. It’s always warm.”
But she didn’t recognize the man standing next to her as she ate. She soon learned it was Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez, who had come to lend a hand with deliveries.
“It’s always a great experience for me talking to seniors,” Sanchez said.
Meals on Wheels of Solano County invited elected officials to help deliver meals Monday. The goal was to focus public attention on an organization that uses about 145 volunteers to deliver about 650 meals each weekday to senior centers and to seniors at home.
“We’re a strong, healthy organization,” said Cathy Hall, executive director of Meals on Wheels of Solano County. “That said, we will always have challenges in that we constantly need funding and we constantly need volunteers.”
In past years, Meals on Wheels had the mayors help out for one day. This year, it also asked county supervisors.
Answering the call were Sanchez, Rio Vista Mayor Norman Richardson, Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy, Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and county Supervisors Jim Spering and Skip Thomson. Supervisor Erin Hannigan is to help out on another day in Vallejo. Fairfield Mayor Harry Price couldn’t make it Monday, but helped out March 6.
“It’s part of a national campaign for Meals on Wheels to take March and really push the pledge that no senior will go hungry by 2020,” Hall said.
Sanchez said he has participated in the annual event since he became mayor in 2006. He sees a lot of familiar faces each time. Or course, he said with a laugh, there are those who ask him, “Are you still the mayor?”
Lyle Winters, a staff volunteer at the Suisun Senior Center, ate the Monday offering. For a lot of seniors, Meals on Wheels provides the only nutritious meal they get, he said.
“We really count on them,” Winters said.
Meanwhile, Thomson and Spering went to the Meals on Wheels of Solano County headquarters at the Marina Shopping Center in Suisun City. Thomson said he’s long had an interest in senior issues and volunteered as a teen at the Fairfield Senior Center.
“I think this is a great opportunity for me to see exactly what’s going on,” Thomson said.
He and Spering got a tour of the kitchen before going with the meal deliverers to homes.
Meals on Wheels has an annual budget of about $900,000. But it lost $30,000 because of the federal sequestration budget cuts.
“Instead of just closing our doors, we had to make some changes to our serving,” Hall said.
Meals on Wheels reduced how many days it serves some of the senior centers. The Suisun City Senior Center now has the Meals on Wheels meals three days a week instead of five.
“That really hurt,” Winters said after finishing the Monday meal, with the Irish stew in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Hall said Meals on Wheels is becoming a fundraising organization, along with providing meals and some human contact to homebound seniors.
Running a food and transportation business is costly, Hall said. Plus, there are the daily challenges that come along with running a food-and-transportation undertaking. For example, a delivery van might break down. Hall said the two vans each have more than 100,000 miles on them.
Proceeds of sales of 100 cases of Galvan Family Cellars and Wooden Valley Winery wine will go to Meals on Wheels, Hall said. Mankas Steakhouse will have the wine as its house wine.
Fairfield firefighters will take part in a poker night fundraiser to help Meals on Wheels.
The community is stepping up to help and that allows Meals on Wheels to focus on what it does best – delivering meals to and making contact with seniors, Hall said.
For more information on Meals on Wheels, go to www.mealsonwheelssolano.org or call 428-0638.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.