Ranch & Coast Magazine

December 2023

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what Wakefield refers to as "senior isolation interruption," but it ultimately doubles as a critical — and sometimes life-saving — wellness check. In fact, the organization uses an app in which volunteers can note observations from their visits to ensure the health and safety of those they serve and activate any additional services or emergency contacts whenever necessary for a more modern, wraparound approach. e food itself remains at the heart of what Meals on Wheels does, and what's on offer might not be what you'd expect. e organization works with a registered dietician to create not just one menu but several in order to address the needs of a diverse population nutritionally, physically, and even culturally. All follow strict nutritional guidelines, but different options include vegetarian, Latin, gluten-friendly, and even easy-to-chew. "It's more of a modern experience than they're used to," says Wakefield. "We're stepping it up and going from what Meals on Wheels used to be associated with to something that is inspiring." It's a refreshing approach to the service, essentially behaving more like a bespoke meal delivery service rather than a charitable organization, and it's intentional. "How we present our story and how we talk about our clients, I think, is a really important piece. You have to give folks dignity and hope from the get-go. Otherwise, I think you're doing a disservice," Wakefield explains. "It's an empowering position that we're trying to put them in." Part of that evolving story is the development of a new, 23,000-square-foot facility to act as both headquarters and what Wakefield calls a "senior innovation hub" that will include meeting rooms and collaborative spaces to share with other organizations they partner with, as well as a better base to service the roughly 150 daily volunteers who pick up meals to be delivered. Slated to open next spring, the offices are a key element in Wakefield's mission to modernize the organization to serve more San Diego seniors in a meaningful, respectful, and efficient way. "It's all kind of a new energy, and a new vision around aging seniors who want to stay independent in their homes as long as possible, and we can help them achieve that," he says, though he also notes that research indicates the need is far greater than organizations can collectively measure. "ere's a lot of work to be done. I pat everybody on the back — everybody's doing a great job. Now we all need to be three times bigger, honestly." meals-on-wheels.org A Father and a Fighter Becoming president of an organization created to make impactful, direct contributions toward frontline efforts to cure pediatric brain cancer and other childhood cancers was not the original game plan for Shawn Mahoney. But, when his daughter, Layla, was diagnosed in 2021 with ependymoma, an incurable form of brain cancer, Mahoney jumped into the role not just for her, but for all the kids with cancer for whom he doesn't think treatments and cures are coming quickly enough. After what Mahoney felt were missteps early on in Layla's treatment plan, he took matters into his own hands, researching experts and reaching out to doctors countrywide to find better "We're stepping it up and going from what Meals on Wheels used to be associated with to something that is inspiring," says Meals on Wheels San Diego County President and CEO Brent Wakefield (left) >> @ranchandcoast RANCH & COAST MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2023 51

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