Meals on Wheels, which has served more than 10 million meals to older Santa Cruz County residents in almost 50 years on the scene, is facing some uncertainty after being asked to move from its headquarters in a building belonging to the Live Oak School District. The program could also use some helping hands.
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Meals on Wheels of Santa Cruz County is hosting its 10th annual Food for the Heart luncheon fundraiser next week, which comes as the organization faces relocation and a shortage of volunteers. Run by Community Bridges, the program has been serving meals to older adults in the county for almost 50 years — with over 10 million meals served during that time.
For years, the program has been headquartered at the Live Oak Senior Center on Capitola Road, which serves as the primary kitchen and distribution facility. The property is owned by the Live Oak School District, which plans to use the space for much-needed teacher housing and has ordered Meals on Wheels to move on or before June 30.
District officials say they understand the benefits these services bring to the community, but that the school district’s primary responsibility is to ensure all district assets are being optimized for service to students, staff and families.
Tony Nuñez, spokesperson for Community Bridges, says the organization has asked the district for more time to find a new home and retrofit a new location so it can continue its services without interruption.
“If the current move-out date is not changed, we expect to incur additional operating costs of $180,000 annually,” says Nuñez. “We think there is a mutually beneficial solution to this issue, and we’re encouraged by the board’s decision to pull a vote on the item off their Feb. 22 agenda to conduct more research into some of these potential decisions.”
A new date for the vote hasn’t been scheduled, and school district officials haven’t confirmed whether there will be one.
In addition to seeking a new location, Meals on Wheels also needs more volunteers. Demand for its services has risen in the past few years, but the program lost around half of its volunteers when COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders went into place.
“Volunteers are really the lifeblood of community-based organizations like Meals on Wheels,” Nuñez says, “and we strongly encourage folks who are interested in helping to reach out to us.”