SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, CA — Meals on Wheels for Santa Cruz County, a lifeline for older adults in our community seeking increased food security and community support, is excited to announce the return of its signature fundraising event, the Food from the Heart luncheon, on February 2, 2024, at the enchanting Chaminade Resort & Spa from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
In a community-driven effort to deliver 3,500 meals each week to the homes of local older adults, as well as serve 200 meals daily at dining sites across the county, Meals on Wheels for Santa Cruz County— a program of Community Bridges— relies on the generosity of supporters to meet the program’s growing needs. Government funding has lagged, with 2023 funding nearly identical to 2010 levels, leaving a critical one-quarter of services in need of financial, community support.
The Food from the Heart luncheon, now in its 11th year, serves as a vibrant celebration uniting Meals on Wheels for Santa Cruz County’s generous supporters and local leaders. Attendees can anticipate a Valentine-themed affair featuring romantic gift items for silent and live auctions, exciting raffle prizes, a delectable lunch catered by Chaminade Resort & Spa, updates about the Meals on Wheels program, and recognition of this year’s Sweetheart and Community Champions award winners.
This year, we are proud to honor the following partners with our annual awards:
Sweetheart Awards: Gary Lenker and Katie Nunez
- Gary Lenker has volunteered at Meals on Wheels’ Live Oak kitchen and dining site for more than five years, generously donating up to 15 hours per week to support the program with its mission of feeding and visiting local seniors. A retired carpenter from Pennsylvania, Gary drove Meals on Wheels delivery routes for ten years before joining the team in Santa Cruz. Today, he arrives at the kitchen at 6:30 a.m. daily to package up to 600 meals for each day’s routes. He also fulfills administrative duties, providing invaluable support to help the program meet the community’s growing needs.
- As the Older Adult Services Supervisor for City of Watsonville Parks & Community Services Dept., Katie Nuñez works closely with Meals on Wheels’ team members to welcome more than 200 participants annually to weekday meals and community at the Watsonville Senior Center, where 46% of participants live alone, 44% live in poverty, and 59% are Spanish speakers. Katie’s skillful coordination of senior center activities and facilities makes her feel like a member of the Meals on Wheels family.
Community Champions: Manu Koenig, Bruce McPherson, Lifespan
- First District Supervisor Manu Koenig has provided thoughtful leadership to Meals on Wheels program, headquartered at the Elena Baskin Live Oak Senior Center and Annex. Supervisor Koenig’s strong advocacy has helped pave the way for First District community leaders to continue to work collaboratively to meet the needs of children, families and seniors, and the agencies and services that support them.
- Fifth District County Supervisor Bruce McPherson provides leadership and advocacy for the San Lorenzo Valley area, where Meals on Wheels drives deep into the Santa Cruz Mountains to bring home delivered meal staples to more than 100 residents annually, as well as nurture the tightknit community that gathers for weekday meals at Highlands Park Senior and Community Center in Ben Lomond. Supervisor McPherson has been a great friend to participants, advocating for and supporting services to meet their needs through twelve years in office and beyond.
- In 2023, Lifespan celebrated 40 years serving as the first geriatric/aging care management agency in Santa Cruz County, providing professional care management, social engagement and supported activities. A longtime partner in the field of aging, Lifespan colleagues coordinate and collaborate with providers including Meals on Wheels to deliver services and resources that promote the health, safety, comfort and independence of local older persons to maximize their quality of life.
The Food from the Heart luncheon is an opportunity for the community to come together and show their love and support for a vital service that ensures no older adult in Santa Cruz County goes hungry. All proceeds from the event directly benefit Meals on Wheels for Santa Cruz County, supporting its mission to combat senior isolation through the delivery of thousands of nutritious meals.
To be part of this heartwarming occasion, reserve your tickets now for the Food from the Heart luncheon at Chaminade Resort & Spa. Sponsorship opportunities are available, and we welcome love-inspired auction item donations. For more details, please contact Anna Vaage, Senior Development Analyst, at email@example.com or 831-688-8840 ext. 205.
Join us on Friday, February 2, 2024, to share your love and support for Meals on Wheels for Santa Cruz County and make a meaningful impact in the lives of isolated seniors in our community.
About Meals on Wheels for Santa Cruz County
Since 1976, Meals on Wheels for Santa Cruz County, a program of Community Bridges, has served nearly 10 million meals to 75,000 local seniors in need. Meals on Wheels for Santa Cruz County serves 1,500 seniors in need each year with nutritious meals and caring human contact. The tireless work of this program—supported by a dedicated army of volunteers—allows thousands of Santa Cruz County residents to remain healthy, safe, and independent in their own homes.
About Community Bridges
Community Bridges envisions a thriving community where every person has the opportunity to unleash their full potential. Together, our family of programs delivers essential services, provides equitable access to resources, and advocates for health and dignity across every stage of life. To learn more, please visit communitybridges.org.