It’s About So Much More Than A Meal: Meals On Wheels volunteer Walt on human connection and being a good neighbor

180611_WE_ARE_SANTA_MONICA_WALT-0174.jpg

Meals on Wheels West volunteer Walt is always delighted when his delivery route happens to include a certain house where three brothers live. Like many recipients of Meals On Wheels, the brothers are elderly — in their 90’s, by Walt’s estimates. But their age hasn’t dampened their spirits — they’re lively, jovial storytellers. And like Walt, all three brothers are war veterans. Walt always enjoys the few minutes he gets to spend with them after delivering a meal — laughing, swapping stories, and reminiscing about time in the military.

A Meal… And A Connection

Spend a few minutes talking with Walt and it’ll become clear that volunteering with Meals On Wheels West is about so much more than just delivering food. It’s also about human connection. It’s about including those in our community who may feel on the “outside” simply because they cannot get out of the house. It’s about making everyone feel welcome and cared for in Santa Monica — a key value for our city.

And unlike the three brothers, many of the people Walt delivers to live alone, so their human contact is minimal. Getting to have a conversation for a few minutes with these people can help decrease the sense of isolation that may come with age or disability.

Walt says, “Meals on Wheels introduces us to a lot of people we may not normally meet, which is a lot of fun … You feel so good being able to deliver that meal to someone that may not be able to get out as much. And then you try to strike up a bit of a conversation. And through all these years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of very interesting people and hear their stories.”  

Looking Out For Your Neighbors

Meals and conversation are key aspects of the Meals On Wheels West mission. But the service also provides another critical benefit: wellness checks.

It wasn’t too long ago that Walt came across a meal recipient laying on the floor. It became clear that she’d recently had a stroke. Walt immediately called 911 and waited with the woman until help arrived. Because Walt — a volunteer — was there, this woman was able to get the medical attention she needed.

Let Empathy Spur You On

Walt is the neighbor we’d all like to have. He truly believes in the value of human connection and the importance of looking out for one another. It’s clear that empathy is a value he holds dear, a value he’d like to encourage in others: “I’d like people to take a moment and just think about what they would do if they were shut in or handicapped. How you would get a meal, how you would socialize with others, how you would get around the city…”  

Walt then encourages people to pose this question to themselves: “What could I do as an individual to help my neighbors in Santa Monica?”

If you’re interested in volunteering with Meals on Wheels West, you can check out their website here. Individuals, as well as corporations and worship communities are all invited to get involved. Walt says people can volunteer multiple times a week or even just once a month. Every little bit helps.

As Walt says, “We really encourage people to just try it at least once, and they’ll get hooked too, I believe.”

And if you’d like to see what other good neighbor volunteer opportunities are available, join us us at weare.santamonica.gov.