This production line is a well-oiled machine. From one set of arms to the next, these volunteers load packaged meals into coolers at the Costa Mesa Senior Center.
Jennifer and Goldy make a good team and quick work of this truck-load of food, organizing it in minutes. Their efficiency can’t be beat. And after accounting for each item, the meals are ready to be delivered.
Jennifer and her friends are part of the nonprofit Project Independence, which helps find developmentally disabled adults jobs, opportunities and life experiences.
For them, packing these meals is about a lot more than volunteering their time. Jennifer and her friends all have special needs of their own, but rather than ask for help, they’re choosing to give it - providing door-to-door deliveries as part of Meals on Wheels to seniors who are home-bound or just can’t move around very well.
“They like me, and they want me to help more with food because they want their food,” says Jennifer.
Casey and Travis and Carlos are among some of the other 40 volunteers to hit the pavement with their coaches and deliver meals to those seniors.
Their disabilities don’t stop them from using their abilities, and rain or shine they never fail to deliver.
That responsibility means that they go from counting on someone else, to someone counting on them.
“They love it. They know they can rely on us,” says Project Independence Manager Cory Bodda.
No one can tell you how much this program means better than 87-year-old Gunars Bundza. He’s a veteran from Latvia with lots of great stories, but cancer and knee injuries have left him physically handicapped.
He used to only buy canned foods because it meant that he could leave them in his car without going bad, unable to make those daily trips up and down the stairs to his room.
Now he doesn’t have to. His meals are delivered right to his door.
“We feel cared for, that’s how it makes me feel. Exactly what it was designed for,” says Bundza.
It’s a simple exchange but a powerful message - don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can.