Take your kindness and compassion to the road! Volunteer drivers are NEEDED for Sound Generations’ Volunteer Transportation Program.
Using their own vehicles, volunteer drivers help older adults maintain their independence by taking them to necessary medical appointments. Clients appreciate their improved access to medical care, meaningful interactions with caring volunteers, and increased peace of mind.
Unfortunately, the program does not have enough drivers to meet the demand for transportation from vulnerable seniors.
Please contact us today if you have the “drive” to help others, a clean driving record, and some daytime availability:
Workers had the option to wait out the storm, but King County’s Meals on Wheels took to the streets anyway.
While public schools, the courts and garbage collection all paused for the snow again Tuesday, Fai Matthews and her small team of Meals on Wheels delivery drivers went to work, loading frozen meatballs and omelets into the backs of the vans that deliver them to homes throughout the county.
With the weight of the meals resting on the rear axle of the rear-wheel drive vehicles, Matthews, wearing a brightly colored hair wrap that popped against the graying snow, made a point to call each of her clients before departing. It was a warning of sorts that her team would be knocking on doors today, despite the snow. On Monday, a client was so surprised by one of the delivery people, she assumed he was trying to break in.
“This is Fai from Meals on Wheels, just letting you know we’ll be delivering today,” she said. “Yes, that’s right.”
The promised snowfall delivered, exceeding a foot in many places around Puget Sound. The roads emptied, buses changed their routes and the city, as it often does in inclement weather, ground to a halt, leaving the vast majority of the city’s residents to stay home and watch the falling white and wet substance accumulate.
Meals on Wheels is a national program and serves 2,200 individuals in King County each year. It’s housed locally in Sound Generations, a nonprofit agency that helps seniors through a variety of programs. The agency receives federal and philanthropic funding. On Monday, it shuttered some of its functions due to weather.
But not this crew.
“Yesterday, the agency was closed, but we ignored that,” said Adam Porter, director of King County operations. “The agency was closed, but hunger’s not closed.”
Monday was an important day to complete deliveries; many seniors had not received their drop-off the Monday before, following the first of four snowstorms that would cover the region. Missing another would mean some clients would go three weeks without a delivery.
Matthews, 65 and with a booming laugh, got stuck only once during her south Seattle route on Monday — passers-by with shovels quickly dug her out, she said. There was little question she’d run her north Seattle route Tuesday.
From a warehouse in SoDo, drivers fan out across King County — north to Shoreline, east to Mercer Island, south as far as Federal Way. At each delivery, clients receive two weeks’ worth of food, portioned on disposable trays, shrink wrapped and frozen. The meals spoon together in thick coolers, although with the temperatures outside, it was no challenge keeping them frozen.
For some of the seniors over 60 who receive meals, it’s more than a delivery — it’s also a wellness check of sorts. Only those who have trouble shopping for themselves qualify for the program, which often means the recipients have trouble doing other things as well.
That motivated the crew through the snow.
“I grew up kind of poor, so I know what it’s like to miss a meal,” said Julian Montgomery, a driver of six years. “But the difference is I can get up and make myself something to eat or go out and get something. These people can’t even get out in the sunshine.”
As the snow began falling over the weekend, the drivers called about 80 clients. They asked who was running low on food. One diabetic man said he was concerned about his dwindling supplies, so he was moved to the top of the list.
By 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, a line of vans squelched their way onto the wet pavement from the Spokane Street warehouse. Without checking GPS, Matthews dipped into the new State Route 99 tunnel, which was dry.
The snow had changed to rain Monday night. So while the main roads were clear, the side streets had turned to slush. Matthews has done this job for 11 years now and was a mail delivery driver before that, so she has seen Seattle’s streets in a lot of different conditions. They’ve never been quite this bad, she said.
She got stuck in an intersection on her way to the first delivery. Two people walking by recommended she put her floor mats beneath her wheels. She did and with their pushing, the van lurched forward. She got stuck again as she was leaving the same delivery and again on her way to Phinney Ridge. On a road north of Greenwood, her wheels sunk so deep that a man with a backhoe needed to pull her to a clear street.
Each time, Matthews would thank her helpers. But when they learned what she was doing, they would end up thanking her instead.
In a show of camaraderie, a passing mail deliverer, in the midst of her own struggle against the elements, shouted to Matthews through her side door: “I’m not going to let this ruin 10 years of sobriety.”
After each battle with the slush, Matthews would position her car just out of the way of traffic and stomp her way to her client’s door. “Meals on Wheels!” she’d shout, in a commanding but inviting voice. And each time, the recipient would express amazement she’d made it there at all.
Two “Mobility for All” Transportation Summits held on October 23 and November 3, engaged the creative talents of seniors and persons with disabilities as well as drivers, dispatchers, managers and transportation planners from all over King County. Over one hundred and twenty persons, including Sound Generations customers and staff, participated including our own CEO Jim Wigfall.
The Summits, organized by the King County Mobility Coalition, of which Sound Generations is a partner, focused on “bold Ideas” for improving the front-end experience of finding and securing transportation for special needs populations. Facilitated by Mark Smutny, Hyde Shuttles Operations Manager, using a World Café format, the Summits identified the need to communicate about available transportation services in multiple languages and the need to embrace new technologies that enable better, same-day customer service, among other key goals.
The Summits were one part of an ongoing effort of Sound Generations, the King County Mobility Coalition and other paratransit providers to strengthen transportation solutions for seniors and persons with disabilities throughout our area.
In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it can be easy to lose sight of just how many seniors there are in our community. Many of them live on fixed incomes and in affordable housing. Due to their age, seniors often have high cost health care among other expenses. At North Helpline, we are committed to looking out for everyone in our community, and we feel that it is especially important to think of our seniors, who are too often overlooked.
There is a particularly high percentage of seniors living in Bitter Lake. According to 2018 data from the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, 22.2% of the population in Bitter Lake is 65 or over. Compared to 7% in Aurora Licton Springs, 14% in Northgate, and 13% in Lake City. We see first hand how important the Bitter Lake food bank is to our neighbors who are aging.
One thing seniors should not have to worry about is going hungry. Unfortunately, senior hunger is all too real. Our executive director Kelly Brown never loses sight of this fact. As she builds coalitions with partnering agencies to best serve our neighbors in greater North Seattle, part of the conversation is on how to help people who are aging to advocate for themselves.
According to Kelly, “baby boomers are the fastest growing population in the food security world. We have been anticipating as best as we can an increased number of seniors living on fixed incomes needing to access food. As the baby boomer generation ages and plans for retirement, they discover it does not always go as anticipated, and living on a fixed income doesn’t keep up with the expense of the city.”
We spoke with Rachael (pictured above), a senior who lives in affordable housing close to the Bitter Lake food bank. Rachael said, “It shouldn’t have to be a choice between rent and food, or healthcare and food, or a place to live. I get frustrated, and I want people to know that if you can help us just a little bit, then we can help ourselves and we can help others.”
Rachael asked to share her story in order to raise awareness not just about senior hunger, but also to destigmatize perceptions about people who are experiencing homelessness. Rachael is a fighter, and she herself was homeless at one point. During the economic downturn, she lost most of her income and was evicted. Rachael lived in temporary housing until she found a permanent home. Due to her age, it was hard to find a new job. Rachael had complicated health problems, and her application for disability was approved on the first try. She never gave up despite the many challenges she faced.
Sadly, due the affordable housing crisis seniors like Rachael do not always know where their next meal is coming from. Many seniors are one crisis away from falling on hard times, and there is a cascading effect of losing housing, piling up seemingly insurmountable health care costs, and struggling to have enough food to eat.
In addition to North Helpline’s two food banks and the emergency services we offer, other organizations are looking out for seniors a well. For example, we caught up with Akira Ohiso who works at Sound Generations in Lake City. He works with older adults who are experiencing homelessness or are close to it. Together with Hunger Intervention Program, Sound Generations provides meals at Lake City Community Center including lunch and to-go meals.
A special congratulations to our four amazing Community Partner Sites – Ballard NW Senior Center, Central Area Senior Center, Lake City Seniors, and the Senior Center of West Seattle on their award! We’d also like to extend our congrats to the twelve nonprofit Centers who were also recipients of Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s award. Keep up the great work!
Mayor Durkan Announces $1.7 Million in Senior Center Awards
Seattle (September 7) – At visits to Sound Generations Lake City/Northgate Senior Center and the International Drop-In Center on Beacon Hill, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced $1.7 million in awards for senior centers that contribute to the health, well-being, and independence of Seattle’s older adults.
“As our City grows less affordable, we must continue to invest in our most vulnerable residents, including our senior community. Our older neighbors are an asset to our community and a vital part of the fabric of our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Durkan. “Our senior centers provide opportunities for volunteerism, lifelong learning, transportation, and healthy meals. These investments will help our neighbors live longer and enhance their quality of life.”
Twelve nonprofit centers across Seattle will receive awards ranging from $67,000 to $180,000 in 2019, including:
· Asian Counseling and Referral Service
· Chinese Information and Service Center
· International Drop-In Center
· Greenwood Senior Center (operated by the Phinney Neighborhood Association)
· Pike Market Senior Center
· South Park Senior Center
· Southeast Seattle Senior Center
· Wallingford Community Senior Center
And four programs operated by Sound Generations:
· Ballard Senior Center
· Central Area Senior Center
· Lake City/Northgate
· Senior Center of West Seattle
“HSD has developed a results-driven investment model that helps ensure that the department’s work is making a real difference in the lives of vulnerable people, addressing community disparities, and investing in what works,” said Jason Johnson, Interim Director of the Human Services Department. “These centers provide high-quality, cost-effective programs. They reach out to older people who may be socially or culturally isolated and they build a real sense of community.”
The Seattle Human Services Department recommended the senior center awards from the City’s General Fund. Its Aging and Disability Services division reviewed center proposals and made final decisions based on recommendations from a community-based review committee, the geographic location of the center, and the opportunity to serve populations with higher health disparities and/or lower social and emotional support, particularly Hispanic/Latinx and Black/African American older adults.
Several studies show the connection between social engagement, quality of life, and longevity. AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect lists numerous risk factors for older adults, including diminishing social networks, fewer transportation options, changing roles, and living alone. Social and civic participation and community support are among the goals of the City of Seattle’s Age Friendly Seattle action plan.
For senior center locations, more information about local programs and services for older adults, or answers to questions about aging issues, call Community Living Connections toll-free at 844-348-5464.
The Swedish Cancer Institute has partnered with Sound Generations to offer a pilot program aimed at providing nutritional and lifestyle tips to stay healthy and reduce one’s risk of cancer. This monthly education series in conjunction with a community dining model is intended to bring together community members, cancer patients and survivors, and caregivers in a welcoming environment. Participants gain connection and support, health education to stimulate healing, and ways to improve overall health. Older adults tell us time and time again, “We want to eat healthy but, it’s too expensive!” When you add on the burden of fighting a chronic illness, eating a healthy meal is not a top concern.
According to research, this pilot program couldn’t have come at a better time. More than one in ten (11.65%) Washington State seniors face the threat of hunger. Food insecure older adults take in fewer critical vitamins and minerals and are more likely to get sick and be in poorer health. Thanks to Swedish Medical Center’s support and yours, we enable diners to socialize with peers in a group setting, reducing isolation and depression, and improving clients’ quality of life beyond the nutritious meal served. See remaining dates and topics below. Come join us for lunch and learn.
Self-Care, Stress Reduction, Caregiver Resources
IDIC – 7301 Beacon Avenue S., Seattle, 98118
Skin Cancer Awareness
Greenwood Senior Center – 525 N. 85th St, Seattle, 98103