Angelina – Meals on Wheels

Since “Angelina” was diagnosed with breast cancer, she has undergone three surgeries and a debilitating series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Some days she has no strength to even answer the door, let alone prepare meals. Despite her frailty and living alone in her small trailer, the former drugstore worker maintains her independence with the help of home delivered meals from Meals on Wheels. Our volunteer delivery driver helped Angelina hook up with local cancer support groups, and on the days when Angelina simply could not find another ride for her chemotherapy sessions, the volunteer would drive her.
Reflecting on her daily contact with Angelina, our volunteer revealed, “Her demanding cancer treatment is so overwhelming, I don’t think Angelina would eat without the meals we bring to her every day.” A warm daily visit from a Meals on Wheels volunteer reduced the isolation and helplessness that Angelina faced.

Juanita -- La Manzana

Our La Manzana Community Resources staff received a distraught phone call one day from “Juanita,” a young pregnant woman, frantic because she had found a lump in her breast. She didn’t know what to do or where to get help. But, she remembered our staff from an outreach activity held at her church. We met with Juanita in person and helped her make an appointment with the local health clinic. Fortunately, Juanita found out the lump was benign, and she was treated. Moreover, with our help, she connected to valuable prenatal care that she had not yet accessed. Our staff also worked with Juanita to ensure that she was aware of other vital services available to her once the baby was born, like health insurance enrollment, breastfeeding support, and parenting classes.


Ernest -- Meals on Wheels

Three years ago, “Ernest” lost his wife. Living alone with just his dog in his trailer home, Ernest had no family or community to support him in his grief. His sorrow and isolation had turned to desperation. He became dangerously thin and confused, and then he had a stroke. It was Ernest’s doctor who contacted Meals on Wheels for help. When our volunteers first delivered meals to Ernest’s home, he wouldn’t speak, barely opening the door to accept his meals. After months of daily deliveries from familiar faces, Ernest began to warm up. Our volunteers brought biscuits for his dog and Ernest started greeting our drivers with a smile. Now, Ernest’s weight is stable, and he receives a healthy meal and a friendly visitor who can check on his well-being each day.

Vanessa -- La Manzana Community Resources, After School Program

Vanessa, a kindergarten student at Radcliffe Elementary School, was behind her classmates and at risk of being retained in kindergarten. La Manzana Community Resources was contacted by Vanessa’s teacher to enroll her in our after-school program, which provides kindergarteners with the foundational skills for success in school. Through the after school program, Vanessa took art classes, learned the alphabet, received tutoring and worked on her reading skills.
By the end of the school year, Vanessa became one of the top students in her class and so inspired her mother and older sisters that they enrolled in La Manzana’s adult Spanish literacy classes so that they could learn to read and continue their education.


Henry – Family Resource Centers

Research shows that preschool helps children gain important skills they’ll build upon throughout life – from learning to get along well with others to basic reading and math skills. But for children with behavior problems, developing critical skills in preschool can be a challenge. A 2005 Yale Child Study Center report found that roughly 5,000 preschool children are turned out each year across the country due to behavior problems.

Community Bridges programs work hard to support parents with the challenging task of raising children. Since 2006, Community Bridges has led a countywide parent education collaborative funded by First 5 Santa Cruz County to support children’s healthy development and promote positive parent/child relationships. Both La Manzana Community Resources and the Live Oak Family Resource Center are members of this collaborative – providing parenting classes, drop-in services, and play groups for hundreds of families in our community.

These critical parent education services impact our community in so many ways – they help to reduce the risk of child abuse, improve communication between parents and their children, and so much more. Take the case of Norma and Oscar, a very distressed couple who approached La Manzana’s Parent Educator after a Positive Discipline class. They had received an ultimatum from the preschool their son Henry was attending: If Henry’s behavior did not improve, he would be pulled from the program. Each week, the Parent Educator worked with the family to practice techniques for addressing Henry’s behavior in a positive way. With each class, Norma and Oscar learned new ways to effectively discipline and communicate with their son.

Fortunately, Henry made noticeable behavior improvements and was therefore was able to remain in the preschool program. Norma and Oscar report that not only did the classes improve their communication with Henry, but also with their 15 year old daughter and their children’s teachers.

The support of foundations like First 5 and the commitment and expertise of our staff help to make real change in our community each and every day.

Mary Henderson – Child and Adult Care Food Program

When Mary Henderson was just 8 years old, her family immigrated to the United States from the Azores off the coast of Portugal. Growing up in Watsonville, Mary attended local schools while her parents earned a living working on apple, strawberry and artichoke farms. Now, decades later, Mary runs her own childcare center in Watsonville – helping to ensure that children receive the care and support they need to grow up healthy and strong.

Compared with other areas in Santa Cruz County, Watsonville has a particularly high level of unemployment – at 12.6%, it is more than double the rates of other local jurisdictions (which are all below the state rate of 4.9%). More than 60% of students in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District received free or reduced cost meals in 2007– not only a key indicator of family poverty, but also illustrative of the fact that children in Watsonville depend on sources outside of the home for their daily meals.

With food and gas prices on the rise and the economy on the decline, affordable childcare is more important than ever for local families. By connecting her daycare center with the Child & Adult Care Food Program, Mary Henderson can keep the costs of enrollment down while promoting good nutrition for kids. The Child and Adult Care Food Program provides nearly 500 childcare centers in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties with reimbursements for the healthy foods they serve at their centers. As Mary says, without the reimbursements, “I’d have to raise my prices by at least 12%. That check really makes a big difference.” The food she serves is, "Just pure and natural for the kids. They don’t even know what white bread looks like!" And, Mary benefits from the free nutrition seminars provided by the Program: “The nutritional workshops are motivating. I always learn something… They help me to do better in business and promote wholesome foods for the kids.” Mary’s commitment to serving healthy foods helps to promote nutrition and prevent childhood obesity- an alarming problem in Santa Cruz County.

In addition to her involvement with the Child & Adult Care Food Program, Mary’s family has also benefited from the seniors programs at Community Bridges. When Mary’s mother became a senior, she walked a couple miles each day to join her friends at the Watsonville Senior Center for healthy meals from Meals on Wheels and cultural activities like dancing and live music. When the walks became too much for her, she made use of the free transportation from our Lift Line program. And when her memory loss became so severe she was unable to leave the house at all, she was able to take advantage of the home-delivered meals provided by Meals on Wheels.

When she couldn’t be with her mother, Mary was comforted knowing that a Meals on Wheels volunteer was visiting regularly, saying, "We felt somebody was checking in on her when she was alone. She had someone to visit with a few minutes every day, and the interaction lifted her spirits." For Mary’s family, Meals on Wheels meant much more than a daily nutritious meal—it meant peace of mind, and it meant that Mary could continue to support the children and families who depended on her daily care.


Don and Marion --- Meals on Wheels


To our Friends at Meals on Wheels,
I have been intending to write this letter for a long time as an expression of gratitude not only from my dear wife and myself, but on behalf of a number of our friends nearby. All of us have been the recipients of the gracious courtesy of your volunteers.

All of us here, as they say, are getting along in years. Some are fairly housebound, having given up their driver’s licenses many years ago. For them, as indeed for all of us, it is a cheering site to see the Meals on Wheels vehicle stop in front of the house. Your volunteers then come to the door with not only the most delicious dinners but with a smile and a greeting that always brightens the day.

More than that, a few of our residents here would be in near desperate circumstances were it not for your services, for our supermarkets do not make home deliveries. It is not easy for them to find someone nearby who will help them with their shopping. Next to social security, the help that you provide is among the most essential services for elderly people living alone.

Thank you for thinking of us!!
Most Sincerely - Don & Marion









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