Photos and story
by Lucy Wheeler
The backbone of Meals on Wheels San Diego County (MOWSDC) is its volunteers and each year North County Service Center celebrates their appreciation with awards ranging from years of service to current related activities. These volunteers deliver more than a meal. Every senior who are 60 and older, as well as disabled veteran received meals and a friendly check-up as to how they were doing. For many, it was the only person they saw that day.
This year’s appreciation ceremony, with the impact of COVID, was special. The enthusiasm, respecting masks and distancing, echoed throughout the day with gratitude in getting back together.
COVID-19, as with all industries and private lives, had its impact, and such a celebration drew on the entire organization, from CEO to janitor, for creative methods to recognize these important people who fulfill the mission of Meals on Wheels San Diego County.
MOWSDC has been guided by their mission, to support the independence and well-being of seniors, since the first known U.S, delivery by a group of Philadelphia citizens in 1954, supporting our senior neighbors and disabled adults by extending their independence and health as they age. This compassionate idea has grown and currently nearly 2.4 million seniors and disabled adults are being helped in virtually every community in our nation. This service is continuing while meeting daily challenges brought on by the pandemic.
This creative non-profit organization decided that each of San Diego’s five regional offices would acknowledge these heroic contributions by having a drive-through day of celebration. The North County Service Center chose April 22, 2021 as their first in the 43 years appreciation ceremonies to be done in their parking lot located in San Marcos.
Early in the morning, fresh bouquets of flowers, donated by Dos Gringos, A Flower Company located in Vista were picked up by volunteers, while four tents were set up by other volunteers to begin the day of celebrating and appreciating the valuable volunteers.
The entrance to this special occasion was set up as the check-in and registration station for persons receiving an award. The line of cars began arriving promptly at one p.m. There were over 100 volunteers and guests attending the event. Every attending guest wore masks and the awardees remained in their car though out the award presentation, as codes of distancing and masks were followed throughout the year.
Next, at the second station, a display of beautifully wrapped gift baskets and prizes from individual donors, National Charity League, and North County businesses were being offered as raffles for the volunteers.
Council Member Ed Musgrove from City of San Marcos offered the raffle tickets to each person as they drove by.
Then, MOWSDC CEO, Brent Wakefield and San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones awarded each volunteers who reach their milestone service years with their certificate of appreciation from MOWSDC and from our District 5 County Supervisor Jim Desmond’s office The certificates were customized with name, number of years each person had volunteered, a customized ID lanyard, and a bag of treats.
In the past, these awards were given in group sequence from the stage. This year, they received their awards individually and at random as they entered the drive-thru. The personal impact was felt from both the giver and the receiver.
As each received their award and made the turn U-turn in the parking lot, they were well entertained by the Craigs Band as they performed for over two hours. The lively music kept toes tapping and bodies moving.
The band expressed their pleasure in participating as well as their pleasure to be performing after a lengthy year of hibernation.
Each awardee received a gorgeous Dos Gringos flower arrangement distributed by additional volunteers.
The intimacy of the years’ appreciation, in some ways, exceeded the intimacy of a stage, perhaps reflecting a lack of comradre missed from previous years or perhaps the need for comradre that previously had been taken for granted.
For additional information about volunteering for this worthy cause, call Meals on Wheels San Diego County North County Service Center at 760- 736-9900.