Donors Thanked, Board Installed

By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Several  hundred donors, volunteers and staff members braved the elements (that’s supposed to be humor; it was actually a gorgeous August afternoon) to attend Age Well’s Annual Donor Recognition and Board Installation August 8, generously hosted by First Bank. Again this year, Susan Montoya of First Bank performed flawlessly as Mistress of Ceremonies for the event, which was held at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel.

Dr. Marilyn Ditty, Age Well CEO, used a portion of her annual report to heap praise on the many donors in the audience who, in her words, “make our work possible.” She noted that their donations have become even more crucial in a time when government funding for the kinds of work Age Well does has become increasingly scarce.

She also had the pleasant task of announcing that the new senior housing facility in
San Clemente would open this fall with the possibility of another one in the area opening  in about a year.

Superior Court Judge John Adams administered the oath to this year’s board. Included were three new members: Patty Alexander, Owner, Personalized Senior Placement; Marlene Bridges, Village Real Estate Services, Inc; and Barbara Hogan, Barbara Hogan Insurance Services, Inc.

Three members who are leaving the board were recognized for their years of outstanding service: Mark Burton, New York Life Insurance; Kim Luu, Oakwise Group; and Patricia Kolstad, O’Connor Mortuary.

Keith Janca, Senior Partner at New York Life in Irvine, stood in for Mark Burton and presented Age Well with a check for $5,000. That got the donation ball rolling, and Susan Montoya quickly added another $1,000.  Others in the audience made pledges for various amounts.

Meals on Wheels driver Don Owens delivered a low key but powerful testimonial about the work Age Well does.  Don is one of those people who is into things for the long haul. He celebrated his 91st birthday on August 6, and a while back he and his wife Bess celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary.

He said that one day about seven years ago, a good friend told him, “Don you should be a driver for Meals on Wheels,” and Don said that if his good friend said it, it must be true.  Thus he began his once-a-week stint taking meals to seniors in the community.

Relatives and friends of the people who receive Meals on Wheels, he said, should feel comforted because Meals’ drivers do more than just deliver food.  “We’re not like FedEx or UPS,” he said.  “We don’t just drop the food, ring the bell, and run back to our vehicle.” Part of their job is making sure everything is okay inside the dwelling.

In the rare instances when there is no answer when the driver rings, the driver calls the office and, if needed, someone is summoned to make a welfare check. When he does get an answer, he brings the food inside and checks to see if anything needs attention. He also engages in some friendly conversation with the person who may not see anyone else all day long.

He pointed out that Meals on Wheels means continued independence for the many seniors who can no longer drive or shop or even cook. It enables them to stay in the comfortable surroundings of their own home rather than being institutionalized.

What does a driver get out of his volunteer work? Plenty Don says.

•  You meet some truly interesting people.

• You develop friendships that would never have occurred had it not been for Meals on Wheels.

• You feel the appreciation of the recipients for the work you do.

During fiscal year 2012-2013 Age Well served 307,917 meals to 1,102 seniors. Those are 1,102 flesh-and-blood human beings who every day get nutrition, a caring eye, and warm friendship from people like Don Owens. And that is made possible by the continuing generosity of Age Well donors, including the many in Don’s audience.

Sam Conti’s band provided lively musical bookends to the event before and after the actual program. 

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Sunday, November10: Seniors’ Prom at the Irvine Marriott Hotel. Entertainment by Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni.

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