Living in a place as special as Lake Tahoe, it’s easy to see why many of the area’s most longtime locals say one of their biggest wishes is simply to stay as long as possible.
That might be why Sierra Senior Services’ Meals on Wheels program is so much more than a delivery service; it is a means of communication among those in the community who are most isolated.
“There is no assisted living facility around here, so when people aren’t able to care for themselves anymore they end up needing to relocate to a facility over the hill,” said Barbara Young, who has been a volunteer with Meals on Wheels locally since it began over 15 years ago.
Another volunteer of 15 years, Emily Hatch, said she thinks volunteering with Meals on Wheels is a wonderful thing to do for the community.
“It’s such a good thing to do. We’re interacting with clients who tend to be isolated and we serve as a health check-in. We hope someone will do this for us later in life, it’s so tough to stay in your home in this challenging area,” she said.
Over the past 15 years, volunteers have collectively driven more than 722,627 miles and provided over 376,195 meals to seniors in Truckee, Tahoe City, Kings Beach, and Incline Village.
There are six routes that volunteers drive with multiple stops along the way. They follow a checklist outlining food restrictions and special requests, and at each home package meals, milk, fresh fruit and frozen items for seniors every day.
Professional chefs arrive at Sierra Senior Services to prepare meals at 7:30 a.m., and all dishes are reviewed by dietitians. By 11a.m. the meals are packaged, loaded into delivery vehicles and heading out to their designated routes.
Seniors are able to rely on nutritious meals delivered every day for a suggested donation of $4, though no one has ever been turned away from the service due to lack of funds.
“All of the meals are prepared with quality ingredients and are nutritionally balanced, and they’re really good, too. I would pay $15 for the salmon, or the meatloaf, there are delicious salads and this chicken, artichoke and mushroom dish that I actually asked the chef the recipe for,” Young said.
Many of the seniors who use Meals on Wheels eat half of the large, delivered meals for lunch and save the other half for dinner; they can also ask for additional frozen meals to eat over the weekend.
Robert and Jane Solinsky met in 1948 at Homewood when Jane pulled up to the gas station Robert ran at the time.
The two fell in love and were married two years later and they still live near where they met so many years ago, and say that the Meals on Wheels program has been a real gift to them.
“These are lovely people, truly angels of mercy. We still have each other, but we know a lot of people who are alone up here. The Meals on Wheels volunteers are kind, considerate, they bring a good variety of food with good nutrition,” Jane Solinsky said.
Her husband added, “a mixture of foods is necessary for optimal health, they have great soup, salads, sandwiches, and they’re wonderful on the desserts.”
Jane said that she loved to cook all her life but after having four children she’s done a lot of it over the years and Meals on Wheels makes it easier for them to keep fresh fruit in the house.
“They make the delivery enjoyable, they come in and visit for a bit, it gets lonely and we just love chatting with people,” Robert Solinsky said.
“We love this life, this is not a vacation house — well, for the kids it is — but this is where we want to be. There’s fresh air here, spring water from our own well, it’s cleaner and they help us stay here. The deliveries are always on time, they greet you and bring you the paper; it’s so much more than just dropping off food, they’ve become our friends,” he added.
Meals on Wheels is hosting the 17th Annual Spaghetti Dinner, Bingo and Silent Auction, their largest fundraiser of the year, on Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Truckee Donner Rec & Parks District.
Tickets are available at Sierra Senior Services and Plumas Bank in Truckee, Kings Beach, and Tahoe City for $30 in advance and $35 at the door.
Silent auction and raffle items are needed and ticket sale proceeds support the work that volunteers of Sierra Senior Services carry out to support Tahoe-Truckee’s longtime locals in receiving meals and friendship.
Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.