It’s no secret: Nonprofit organizations like Meals on Wheels are only as strong as their corps of volunteers. It is volunteers who make us what we are. And at a time when human services are needed most, the importance of volunteerism has never been greater.

While volunteers are our bedrock, it is community partnerships that help propel the mission forward. We at Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula partner with Meals on Wheels of the Salinas Valley to provide freshly prepared meals for homebound clients; the Food Bank for Monterey County for the ingredients on our menus; and Community Emergency Response Volunteers (CERV) to raise awareness about emergency preparedness for local seniors.

In the middle of a pandemic and with wildfire season approaching, collaboration is vital in protecting our community’s ability to stay resilient. Interagency coordination is essential and, especially now, is crucial for an efficient and effective response to public health emergencies and disasters.

Part of that collaboration is happening through a new statewide campaign, Listos California. Listos California rose from the cinders of the state’s recent wildfires and the devastation brought by other natural disasters. These disasters don’t affect everyone equally, as the communities least equipped to deal with their lasting impacts are those often hit hardest. The aim of the $50 million campaign is to raise awareness and foster emergency preparedness.

Making the state’s disaster preparedness culture the best in its class was a priority. That is why Gov. Gavin Newsom started Listos California. In Newsom’s words, “emergency preparedness is not the government’s responsibility alone. Solutions can’t be top-down.” This is also why MOWMP and CERV teamed up with the goal of empowering our volunteers to spread the word and help expand this movement.

This happens through online emergency preparedness training and education materials, specific to homebound seniors from CERV. Our volunteer drivers distribute those materials along with meals, equipping this too-forgotten group with resources they need to navigate an unforeseen crisis.

There is a need for more volunteers; we encourage you to ride with us. Go on a delivery and see the work of Meals on Wheels with your own eyes. Help homebound seniors and adults with disabilities receive the nutrition they need, help improve their quality of life and independence – and check in on how prepared they are for potential emergencies.

Beyond the isolation and tedium that come with sheltering in place, there is a great need; demand for our home-delivered meals has grown by more than 25 percent since March.

This is about more than meals. This is about awareness. At a time when 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day until 2030 – and at a time when seniors are at a particularly high risk of Covid-19 – we must renew our commitment to supporting them.

JACOB SHAFER is development director at Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula. Learn more, including how to volunteer, at mowmp.org or mowsalinas.org. For more on Listos California, listoscalifornia.org

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