With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing more people out of work and into isolation, Meals On Wheels of Long Beach served a whopping 1,400 dinners in just one day to residents across the Long Beach on Wednesday as a growing need for food increases.
- ADVERTISEMENT -
About 40% of the clients are low-income who qualify for the organization’s free meals. The maximum number of meals they can give clients is four days’ worth during the holidays or weekends, according to Bill Cruikshank, director of the nonprofit.
For those who can afford it, two meals per day cost $8.25. They’ve been able to subsidize many of the meals with $100,000 in grants from Southern California foundations, he said.
Currently, Cruikshank said that they have 370 volunteers every week with 38 routes daily. While volunteers consist mostly of retirees and some college students, the organization gained some help from people who have been furloughed from their jobs—an economic blow caused by the pandemic. As outgoing travel and tourism die down too, Cruikshank said Long Beach Airport’s Signature Flight Support employees—the workers who fuel jets—committed to volunteer more than 1,000 hours by the end of the year.
“So these guys are going to work when they leave in about an hour,” he said about the volunteers who helped assemble meals.
But aside from meeting the growing need for food, many volunteers say they put in the hours for the sake of just making someone’s day a bit better.
A smile, a few giggles, or a chat: it’s the “nice part you don’t expect to happen,” said volunteer Alissar “Ali” Chaanine, 35. She and her driving partner Alexandra Sabella, 35, have been volunteering when the pandemic damaged the livelihoods of many, whether that was putting residents out of work or heightening social isolation for many older adults.
“Now, I can’t even imagine not doing this,” Sabella, who is able to work from home, said. “I think it’s really silly looking back not being able to find the time.”
Volunteer Noreen Evans, 67, brings flowers for her regular clients on their birthdays. Just recently, she said, she made them face masks. “When I go up and deliver, I’m the only one they see.”
A volunteer, holding a scoop of mashes potatoes, looks over their shoulder as more trays of food are brought by other volunteers during a meal assembly shift inside the Belmont Heights United Methodist Church in Long Beach on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
Lead volunteer Adrian Rivera carries a large tray of turkey to hand off to an assembly line of workers preparing Meals On Wheels deliveries at the Belmont Heights United Methodist Church in Long Beach on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. One of the most important tasks, the volunteers made clear, is repeatedly counting meals prepared so that no client is left without one. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
A pair of Meals On Wheels volunteers roll off large bags containing stacks of food at the Belmont Heights United Methodist Church on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. The organization’s clientele spans across Long Beach to the Compton border in the north to Leisure World in Seal Beach, and includes Signal Hill. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
Peter Soeun pushes a cart of food in preparation for Meals On Wheels deliveries from the Belmont Heights United Methodist Church in Long Beach on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Soeun began helping with food distribution via the Pacific Gateway work-source center in Long Beach. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
A volunteer helps prepare one of many coolers filled with meals distribution from the Belmont Heights United Methodist Church in Long Beach on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
John Colson reaches out for one of the last cases of food handed off to him as he fills a tall van filled with hundreds of meals park at the Belmont Heights United Methodist Church in Long Beach on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
Alissar “Ali” Chaanine, left, and Alexandra “Alex” Sebella, right, look eyes with one another at a red traffic light while having a conversation during a Meals On Wheels distribution route in Long Beach on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Ali and Alex, who are both 35 years old, started volunteering their time in early April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
On the left, Tia Bascus or “Miss Tia,” as she prefers to be called, receives food delivery from Meals On Wheels volunteers, Alexandra “Alex” Sabella, middle, and Alissar “Ali” Chaanine, right, outside of her home on Chestnut Avenue in the Downtown Long Beach area on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Ali and Alex found Miss Tia watering her plants she called her “babies” in front of her gated multi-housing unit. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
Meals On Wheels volunteer Alissar “Ali” Chaanine searches for the second unit she needs deliver her food to at an apartment complex in the Downtown Long Beach area on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Two boys riding scooters, one dressed as Spider-Man, greeted Chaanine and her volunteering partner upon arriving. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
A resident reaches out for a bag of food delivered to their Downtown Long Beach home by Meals On Wheels volunteers on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
A bag of food sits in the truck of a Meals On Wheels volunteer during a delivery route in the Downtown and Central Long Beach area on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Volunteers decorated the bags of food with colorful foam paper turkeys as Thanksgiving nears closer. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
Mary McGee whoops while receiving a chumming delivery from a Meals On Wheels volunteer at her housing unit in the Downtown Long Beach area on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. McGee lives in a complex filled with other disabled and/or older adults. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
After inviting Meals On Wheels volunteer Alexandra “Alex” Sabella, left, inside her housing unit, Mary McGee, right, the hand-decorated lunch bags volunteers have been packaging in her meals she receives at her home in the Downtown Long Beach area on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. “It just makes me so happy,” McGee said to Sabella about the bag, adding that she appreciated these thoughtful gestures. Photo by Crystal Niebla.
Support our journalism.
Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.
Never miss a story.
Subscribe to the Long Beach Post's daily eALERT and get the best local news in the city delivered to your inbox.