I searched for a volunteer opportunity after moving to California, which was soon after losing both my parents within a month of each other. Helping the elderly and homebound really seemed to help fill the void created by my loss. I’ve been a volunteer for 20 years and was the first volunteer to be asked to join the board. I am also a commercial airline pilot and have flown for 40 years which includes 8 with the Air Force flying the C-5 cargo plane.
I’ve been very active with Meals On Wheels West which is based in Santa Monica California and covers the coastal communities between Marina del Rey and Pacific Palisades As a frequent volunteer, I realized that several of my homebound clients were feeding their pets from their own meal before they were eating themselves. I knew this was bad for both the people and pets and was determined to find a way to make it easier for them to take care of these much beloved animals. Much too often, homebound individuals have very little contact with the outside world, making their pets the most important beings in their lives. It gives them a reason for getting up each day and an overall sense of purpose and self esteem which is what motivated me to create the Pet Program. Our mission statement is “Keeping people and pets together” which involves many aspects of pet care.
The program provides food specific to the dietary needs and preferences of each animal which often changes and can be costly, especially for vet prescribed food. It is delivered directly to the client once a month unless they can’t lift it in which case its delivered by a volunteer, We frequently provide transportation to the vet for routine and emergency care and emotional support ate end of the pets life. We have lost several animals since the program started and I cry as if it was my own. Recently I’ve been to several shelters to help a client find a new dog after the heartbreaking task of helping him euthanize his much loved dog.
The Pet Program relies on donations from individuals and a couple foundation grants and is need of funds in order to expand veterinary services which are desperately needed. Before we started the program, there were a few cases when our fixed income clients spent their entire savings on emergency vet care and we are determined for that to never happen again.
Each Meals On Wheels is a separate entity and only a small percentage have some sort of pet support. Meals On Wheels West realizes the importance of pets in the lives of the homebound and wants to create a program that will be that gold standard for other Meals On Wheels programs to copy.