Special to the Vanguard
Woodland, CA – Now nourishing more than 530 vulnerable seniors countywide with meals five times or more each week – and recently initiating service to Dunnigan – Meals on Wheels Yolo County has announced staff, Board, and service additions aimed at supporting goals to continue impactful progress toward healthier outcomes for aging adults throughout Yolo County.
“Since committing to the ‘Operation Accelerate’ initiative in January, Meals on Wheels Yolo County is nourishing 40% more seniors, doing so with fresher, more nutritious foods, and delivering with equity to remote, rural areas of the county for the first time ever,” shared Joy Cohan, Executive Director of the organization. “These results have required significant adaptation to change and an innovative spirit amongst staff and Board members alike. Their willingness to embrace and pursue a new path forward is changing the lives of local senior citizens experiencing food insecurity and isolation.”
Beginning with Cohan’s hiring to lead the organization nearly nine months ago, the nonprofit began to address underperformance issues exacerbated by pandemic conditions. A management leadership team was formed, as well as distinct – yet collaborative – areas of focus within the staff structure. This prompted the following recent promotions and additions to the team:
- Davisite Adrienne Meredith as Deputy Director, overseeing Administrative, Human Resources, and Fiscal functions
- Promotions of Zea Davis of West Sacramento and Alexa Torres of Woodland to Food Services Manager and Programs Manager, respectively
- James Pearson of West Sacramento as Engagement Manager, the organization’s first-ever dedicated Development and Marketing position
- Woodlander Angel Camarena and Alex Llocclla as Program Specialists
- Promotion of West Sacramento resident Carissa Brown to Food Services Specialist
- Amora Harding providing service as an AmeriCorp VIP, building capacity for the recently launched Meals on Wheels Yolo County Volunteer Program.
- Natalia Sterling of Woodland as the inaugural Volunteer Coordinator
- Nutrition Site Specialists Kathy Tuel in Winters and Kathy Martin in Woodland
- Expanded Kitchen/Food Services workforce, including Chefs Kathy French and Liz Lorenz, and Kitchen Aides Tamberlynn Thompson, Jose Zavala, Michele Long, Aubrey Freed, and Hassan Tran
“As a growing nonprofit with a critically important mission, shining a spotlight on the value of volunteerism and HR as the underpinnings for the high performance required to provide more meals for more seniors in more parts of the county cannot be ignored,” Cohan explained. “Furthermore, the bold move of our Board of Directors to approve a $17.50 per hour ‘living wage’ as the minimum pay for any Meals on Wheels Yolo County employee speaks volumes to our organization’s commitment to operating as a responsible social services provider.”
Cohan also notes that in the new fiscal year that began July 1, Meals on Wheels Yolo County’s annual operating budget increased by approximately $850,000 to $2.7 million, congruent with the uplift in meals both provided and planned. The Agency on Aging Area 4 provides federal funding that constitutes roughly one-quarter of the budget, while local private philanthropists and corporate donors continually are invited to invest in the organization’s work to supply the remainder.
Also in July, a new slate of officers was welcomed by the Board of Directors for 2022-2023, headed by Woodland resident Eric Miller as Chair. Formerly serving as Vice-Chair, Miller is a business law attorney with Sacramento firm Boutin Jones. Woodlanders Bridget Levich, a retired UC Davis clinical nursing specialist, and Jim Odusola, owner of Advance Care Home Solutions, were elected, respectively, as the new Vice-Chair and Treasurer, and Michelle Weiss of Davis, a retired Hewlett-Packard marketing executive, is serving as interim Secretary.
Additionally, Marc Thompson, a Davis resident and mortgage consultant with Summit Funding, Inc. was elected to join existing Board Directors in guiding the organization’s progress, including Immediate Past Chair Dr. James Barrett of Woodland, Knights Landing resident and Vice- President/Financial Services Manager of First Northern Bank’s Woodland branch Vicki Faye, Colliers International Commercial Real Estate Appraiser Ryan Frings of West Sacramento, and Woodlander Karen McClellan.
“A very intentional ‘Culture of Innovation’ is being fostered and nurtured within the organization,” Cohan offered. “We are continually checking our strategies and our actions against the ‘why’ Meals on Wheels Yolo County exists in the first place, which is to create healthier, safer outcomes for seniors in our community through food assistance and social contact. Our culture encourages employees, Board members, and other volunteers to participate in suggesting new, sometimes out-of-the-box ways of accomplishing high level goals. The results of this approach are evident in our recent growth and more equitable service.”
In particular, Cohan cites an embrace of new meal delivery models allowing service to begin and expand in isolated rural areas, solutions to serve more seniors with specific medical and cultural dietary needs, relationships with new service providers such as CalFoods Logistics’ Woodland location, a bulk-purchasing collaboration with Davis-based Short-Term Emergency Aid Committee (STEAC), and budding meal service partnerships with Yolo Adult Day Health and RISE, Inc. as among the impacts brought about the organization’s innovative culture.
“An innovative spirit can see an organization through even the most challenging days,” Cohan added. “As an example, providing uninterrupted meal delivery service in the recent extreme heat conditions is a point of pride for the whole team. Staff and volunteers alike weathered the stress of both outdoor deliveries, a brutally hot environment in our un-air conditioned kitchen and nutrition site facilities, and the threat of power outages, requiring back-up cooking plans. They quickly pivoted to ensure dependable service for vulnerable seniors, and now we’re already innovating improvements to this model to prepare for the next event of a similar nature, whether high heat, winter storms, or something else.”
Meals on Wheels Yolo County provides nutrition and social contact to senior citizens age 60+ and other mobility-challenged individuals, focused upon one or more home deliveries of five hot, fresh, and frozen meals each week. Currently, more than 10,500 meals are provided weekly countywide to food insecure aging adults. With a rich, nearly 50-year history of nourishing older adults both at their doorsteps and in congregate dining settings, Meals on Wheels thrives thanks to donations of funds and time from the community. To connect with services or to offer support, please visit https://mowyolo.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 530-662-7035.