In Andrea Johnson’s Galt home are some words of wisdom. One reads “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The other asks the question “And when my time is up have I done enough?”
Johnson decided it was time to put those words into action when the area was thrown into the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Johnson, along with her friend Tiffany Hawkins, also of Galt, led an effort to make sure seniors in need in their community were taken care of when the COVID-19 pandemic came to the 209.
Keeping the needs of seniors on the forefront is something Johnson has been doing for years. She has been a volunteer with Meals on Wheels for eight years and is in her second term with the City of Galt Commission on Aging.
“When COVID-19 started there were a lot of seniors who it seemed like got forgotten about,” Johnson said. “Transportation was closed down and some didn’t have cars. Some didn’t have computers to go online and some didn’t have family in the area. I thought to myself how are they going to get food?”
Johnson contacted the Meals on Wheels where she volunteers to discuss the options to help and learned the program was maxed out and still had nine people on their wait list.
The idea that nine seniors would be struggling to get food was too much for Johnson to just wait and see what might happen, so without giving it a second thought, she said she would be responsible for feeding the nine until space opened up with Meals on Wheels.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it and I didn’t know how long it would go, but I knew I had to do something to help,” Johnson said.
As Johnson thought about the task there was one person she knew she had to call.
“Tiffany was the first person I called,” Johnson said. “I told her I have this crazy idea and she said ‘let’s do it.’”
“Andrea has such a big heart and she gets these ideas and is so enthusiastic about it,” Hawkins said. “When she told me what she wanted to do, I was all in with it.”
They started making calls and within a few hours they had raised a couple thousand dollars to help fund their operation. They followed that effort by securing a deal with the school district to provide two large meals plus fruits and vegetables for $52 per person per day.
“We have a large senior community here and a lot don’t have family resources to fall back on,” said Galt Mayor Shawn Farmer. “We do have a lot of great service organizations and the commission on aging, but sometimes you need people like them who are not going to go through all the red tape of it and just go out and help someone who needs it.”
On their first round of deliveries, they saw how vital the outreach was for the seniors.
“We went to one man’s house and I was putting away the food in his refrigerator and I saw that all he had in there were rice and beans,” Johnson said. “He was so grateful and was thanking us over and over. It really touched my heart.”
They also saw that the needs expanded beyond delivering meals. Shopping for groceries, picking up medications, getting to doctor’s appointments, going to the laundromat, and navigating and connecting online were just some of the tasks that Johnson and Hawkins took on with the seniors.
“It wasn’t all about having a financial need,” Hawkins said. “For some it was a need to stay safe and we were able to help them with that.”
After a few months all but two of the seniors had been added to the Meals on Wheels program. Johnson and Hawkins have continued helping the other two well into 2021 and assisting the others when a need arises.
“It’s like having new family members,” Hawkins said.
The outreach also helped Johnson and Hawkins weather a tough year.
“It helped us stay connected and not take things for granted,” Johnson said. “It also shows that just a small act of kindness can have a big impact.”
DO YOU KNOW ABOUT 211?
211 is a free, confidential referral and information helpline and website that connects people of all ages and from all communities to the essential health and human services they need, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
211 can be accessed by phone or computer (211ca.org). A toll-free call to 211 connects you to a community resource specialist in your area who can put you in touch with local organizations that provide critical services that can improve—and save—lives.
You’ll find information about:
- Supplemental food and nutrition programs
- Shelter and housing options and utilities assistance
- Emergency information and disaster relief
- Employment and education opportunities
- Services for veterans
- Health care, vaccination and health epidemic information
- Addiction prevention and rehabilitation programs
- Reentry help for ex-offenders
- Support groups for individuals with mental illnesses or special needs
- A safe, confidential path out of physical and/or emotional domestic abuse
Meals on Wheels America
Social isolation is a real issue for seniors and can take a significant toll on overall health. Meals on Wheels not only provides food, but gives a senior a human connection.
“A phone call, a hug or a friendly hello at the door can brighten the day for an aging neighbor. It can even save their life. That is why the human connection provided by Meals on Wheels is critical, making sure that seniors have a friendly visit, watchful eye and are not forgotten,” the organization said on their website.
Meals on Wheels America supports more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. By providing funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time. For more information, or to find a Meals on Wheels provider near you, visit www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org.