By Barbara McMurray, Special to the Independent
Marianne and Wolfram Blume did not personally know Harley chef Greg Daniels, but they had enjoyed pre-pandemic dining at his restaurant. When the Laguna Beach couple recently tried his takeout chicken dinner, they decided they wanted to make Harley part of their grassroots philanthropic project, Feed It Forward.
Despite a downpour, last Wednesday they launched their charitable project of delivering 100 weekly hot meals to vulnerable seniors for six months by drivers from Sally’s Fund, a senior transportation nonprofit organization.
“Our project started with worry over the big impact that COVID-19 has had on many businesses, especially restaurants, here in Laguna Beach,” Wolfram Blume said. “We thought that buying meals in quantity might be a way to help restaurants get through this difficult time and also help people impacted by the pandemic.”
Getting meals into the hands of recipients was the project’s biggest challenge. After casting about for a way to figure who was in need and how to reach them, the Blumes were put in touch with Sally’s Fund executive director Rachael Berger.
Until COVID-19 struck, Sally’s Fund provided transportation for seniors to and from the Susi Q Senior Center, Laguna Food Pantry, and medical appointments. With trolley service suspended, many seniors use Sally’s Fund vans to get to doctor’s visits. Last March, the organization expanded its services to include food delivery. Every Tuesday and Thursday, drivers pick up 100 or more bags of groceries from the Laguna Food Pantry and deliver them to seniors sheltering at home.
Hearing about the Blumes’ Feed It Forward idea, Berger and her transportation coordinator sprang into action, coordinating extra shifts for drivers.
“We knew we needed to do this for the senior community,” Berger said. “Although transportation is our first priority, we remain concerned about senior nutrition and I knew we needed to make a plan to implement and execute this generous offer. We know who would benefit from these meals.”
Each Wednesday, Daniels and his staff prepare meals for pickup by Sally’s Fund drivers, complete with menu and reheating instructions. Drivers Rick Robey, who knows many of the meal recipients from his years as a city trolley driver, and Jason Pastore, who transported seniors to and from the Susi Q Senior Center prior to its shutdown, arrive with crates to pack the meals and load them into Sally’s Fund vehicles.
It takes each driver five to six hours to complete the deliveries, as there is often a conversation. Drivers serve as the informal eyes and ears on seniors who may see no one else all week. If they notice a need, drivers report it back to Berger.
Two weeks into the meal deliveries, Berger has received notes of thanks and tearful calls expressing appreciation for delicious, hot restaurant meals in a time of lonely lockdown.
The Blumes invite others to help them expand the program.
“Rachael (Berger) and Sally’s Fund drivers have been wonderful to make this effort work, but they are at full capacity,” he noted. “If anyone is interested, they can donate to Sally’s Fund and earmark it for Feed It Forward to help offset delivery costs. We do hope to select and partner with another restaurant and identify other local recipients in need, but first, we have to find an additional way to get meals delivered.”
In addition to hot meals, the Blumes have also kicked in additional funds to cover drivers’ salaries and fuel. Extra drivers are being pressed into service for Wednesdays to transport seniors to medical appointments. If you know of a senior who could benefit from meal deliveries, contact Rachael Berger at 949-499-4100. Donate at sallysfund.org.
Barbara is a Laguna Beach-based writer, communications, and marketing professional. Find her at mcmurraymarketing.com.View Our User Comment Policy