By Sue Pascoe
American Legion Post 283 gave a $20,800 check to Meals on Wheels (MOW) West on March 22. The Pacific Palisades Woman’s Club presented a check to MOW during their grant program on March 7, and LaShanda Maze, MOW director of community relations and development, spoke to Pacific Palisades Rotary Club on March 9.
Palisades resident, (Sgt. USMC) Med. Retired Noe Aguirre, who was in the Marine Corps and served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the veteran outreach manager for Meals on Wheels West. He is also an active member of American Legion Post 283.
Aguirre went to the Legion and explained that Meals on Wheels are not only for the elderly, but also veterans needed the nutritious meals, too.
He seeks out veterans who are younger, like himself, who may out of pride resist seeking help.
“It’s sad. You look in the refrigerator and all you see is beer,” said Aguirre, who suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). “After I healed, I saw some of my fellow comrades and was able to reach them in their homes.”
Post Commander Jere Romano said, “Coming back, many suffer from PTSD and anxiety that prevent them from going into stores. They can’t be in large crowds. MOW provides the human contact for those shut-ins.”
The money from the legion will provide six months of daily meal delivery and a wellness check to 20 veterans and their spouses living in Pacific Palisades and on the Westside. In addition to the Gulf veterans, World War II and Vietnam veterans, many who are suffering from health conditions such as Agent Orange are also in need of MOW.
At the Meals on Wheels Annual Community Champions Day on March 22, the legion was recognized and particularly Aguirre. “I can’t say enough about Noe,” said MOW Executive Director Chris Baca. “His efforts in this community have been spectacular.
“There is hidden hunger in the most affluent communities,” Baca said. “We are excited about this opportunity to partner with the American Legion and deliver food to those who have served our country.”
At the Woman’s Club grant night, Meals on Wheels Associate Executive Director Kevin McNaulty thanked the members for the grant and for all who have volunteered over the years.
At a Pacific Palisades Rotary Club breakfast meeting in March, Maze explained the program to Rotarians: “Meals on Wheels is not just for seniors, but also for veterans of all ages.”
She explained that the program provides for seven days of meals. Monday through Friday, two meals and a light snack are delivered, including holidays. Additionally, on Friday, frozen meals are delivered so that food is available over the weekend. She said that daily 200 individuals, who live in Pacific Palisades, Malibu, Marina del Rey and Venice, are served.
“Sixteen percent of the cost of the meals is funded by the government,” Maze said. “The rest comes from private donations.”
The program is for low-income individuals or the home-bound. If money is not an issue, an individual may pay $8 a day for the basic home-style meals. Vegetarian and di- abetic options are available.
Palisades Rotary Club President Holly Davis delivered Meals on Wheels for more than two years, and Maze acknowledged. “The key to this program is our volunteers; they are how we make this work. They are the eyes and ears for the organization.”
Maze explained that one woman in the Palisades can’t get her mail, but her MOW volunteer picks it up and brings it to her.
“They really needed the food,” Davis said. “They also wanted the contact; they wanted to talk.”
Maze said that volunteers are important because they can also alert social workers if there is a need for additional help.
Volunteers are needed. “This is a great opportunity for groups like churches,” Maze said and noted that student volunteers are also welcomed. Her son started at 14 and continued volunteering until he was 18. Students are usually paired with a volun- teer who drives, and are also welcome to work over vacations and breaks.
To volunteer or donate, email Maze at email@example.com or call (310) 394-5133 ext. 6.