One day last month, Mary (not her real name, to protect her privacy), was delivering meals as a volunteer with Alameda Meals On Wheels when she knocked on the door of one of her clients, a 98-year-old man who lives alone.
No answer. So she knocked again. Still no answer.
She was on a tight schedule, with many more clients to visit. But she knew his routine, and she knew that if he wasn't answering the door, something must be wrong. So instead of moving on, she called the police.
They came out and broke down the door, and they found him lying unconscious on the floor. They rushed him to the hospital, where he made a complete recovery; and now he's back at home, still getting daily meal deliveries from Mary.
"If it hadn't been for her, he would have died," said one of the cops.
All in a day's work for a Meals On Wheels volunteer. "We pride ourselves on doing a daily check on our people," says Rosemary Reilly, director of the program. "It's important for them to have a hot meal every day, but the psychological factor is sweet, too. They know we're coming to their door every day, and we're often the only people they'll see all day."
Ten years ago, Alameda Meals On Wheels created a second program called Friendly Visitors to supplement the daily meal drop-offs with once-a-week visits that last at least two hours, and often much longer.
"My visitor is so loving and sweet," says one client. "She calls and checks in between visits. Sometimes we go to lunch or shopping when she comes. There are times I don’t see people for days, so I love to see her."
It's hard to think of a program that provides such an important service to such deserving people with so little overhead.
Alameda Meals on Wheels is a locally-funded, seven-day-a-week program that has been delivering hot, nourishing meals to Alameda residents for 40 years. Each day, holidays included, its cheerful and caring volunteers deliver a mid-day meal to more than 140 Alameda residents of all ages.
The only obstacle is that providing good food to 140 people costs money, and AMOW runs a shortfall of about $16,000 every month.
To make up the slack, it turns to the public. The big fundraiser is the annual Community Faire & Wine Tasting, which will be held this year on July 20 at the Rock Wall Wine Company on Monarch Street.
Fifteen restaurants and several wineries in Alameda will be serving gourmet food and drink. As always, Tucker's Ice Cream will be serving ice cream in the children's play area, and music will be provided by the big band Three O'Clock Jump. All involved are donating their services for free.
"Alameda is a very caring community," says Reilly.
If you can't make the party, you can still contribute online at alamedmealsonwheels.org or by sending a check to P.O. Box 2534, Alameda CA 94501.
If you'd like to be a meal deliverer, call 510-865-6131; and if you'd like to be a Friendly Visitor, call 510-748-0342.
This is AMOW's 40th anniversary, and I hope they last 400 years more. And there are Meals On Wheels programs in other local cities that deserve your support, too.