COAST CITIES — Mayors are elected to serve their communities, but city leaders across the country recently took that responsibility literally by delivering lunches and dinners as part of the seventh annual Meals on Wheels Mayors for Meals program. In coastal North County, officials from Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar brought dozens of meals to homebound seniors in their respective cities on March 20 and March 21.As a 20-year member of the Solana Beach City Council, it was the third time Mayor Joe Kellejian participated in the program.“Some people can’t go shop every day or it’s hard for them to cook,” Kellejian said. “This is a valuable service for them.”
In addition to delivering nutritious meals, the service provides recipients with increased independence and social opportunities.
Kathy Duggin, who started as a volunteer and is now working for Meals on Wheels, said one client was very withdrawn after her husband passed away.
“Now she said she gets up and gets dressed every day because she knows the volunteers are coming,” Duggin said.
“I try very hard to stay in my home and not end up in a (nursing) home,” 81-year-old Juanita Patterson said. “This is helping.”
Patterson opts to receive only lunch three days a week. She said she tried the dinners, but they had too much gravy for her taste.
She is currently only one of two Meals on Wheels clients in Solana Beach, “which I guess is good,” Kellejian said.
The other recipient was out of town, making it an easy day for Kellejian. In the past he’s delivered meals to five or six homes, he said. This year he was able to spend a little extra time chatting with Patterson.
A petite woman whose home is on a golf course, Patterson shared stories about the 29 windows that have been broken by errant golf shots. She said she used to play three days a week until her arthritis made the game difficult.
To the south, Del Mar Mayor Carl Hilliard was a bit busier. He had six deliveries — three in Del Mar and three that are within the city’s ZIP code but actually in the city of San Diego.
Despite the schedule, Hilliard still had opportunities to spend time with the recipients. In fact, Don Johnson treated him to a brief piano performance.
“He ripped out a song that was professional quality,” Hilliard said. “It was really beautiful. He’s a fantastic player. I felt very special.”
This was also the third time Hilliard has participated in the program. In addition to their meals, he brought recipients a red rose.
“Several of the people we visited need more help,” he said, adding that he provided information to one woman so the Del Mar Rotary could help her with yard work.
“I regard it as a privilege to go,” Hilliard said.
Meals on Wheels is available to anyone 60 years or older or their caretakers. Clients can receive up to 14 meals weekly — lunch and dinner with a beverage — indefinitely or for a limited time, such as after surgery. There is a one-time startup fee of $35 and the cost is $7 a day or less depending on the frequency and number of meals.
Deliveries are all made by volunteers.
The Mayors for Meals program, which began in 2006, is part of the March for Meals campaign designed to raise awareness of senior hunger, encourage volunteerism and increase fundraising.
North County mayors have been participating since its inception. Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood was unable to take part this year, although he has delivered meals in the past. In Carlsbad, Councilman Keith Blackburn filled in for Mayor Matt Hall. Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks also participated in the deliveries.
When asked if Patterson would like to have the mayor bring all her meals, she was quick to answer, “Oh, definitely.”