INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — On June 1, a Meals on Wheels pilot program will begin delivering hot meals to eligible seniors in Incline Village and Crystal Bay.
It has taken six years of planning, with government and nonprofit organizations collaborating from two states — and lots of caring residents and volunteers — to make it happen.
Nevada’s Washoe County Senior Services is partnering with California’s Sierra Senior Services, aided with local logistical support from the Incline Village General Improvement District.
“We are really grateful Sierra Senior Services has come along to help,” said Grady Tarbutton, director of Washoe Senior Services, which has no food preparation facility in the Incline/Crystal Bay area.
Sarah Hall Deardorff, executive director of Truckee-based Sierra Senior Services, said the nonprofit organization has been preparing and delivering hot meals to seniors in the Truckee, North Tahoe and Donner Summit areas for the past 14 years.
Starting June 1, it will also transport hot meals across the state line, where a donated vehicle representing Washoe County Senior Services and a volunteer will then deliver the meals to eligible seniors in Incline/Crystal Bay.
“It makes so much sense. It’s an awesome way to handle this,” said Shelia Leijon, program manager with IVGID Parks and Recreation.
Leijon coordinates senior programs in Incline Village and will act as facilitator for the two organizations as they prepare to launch Meals on Wheels.
Tarbutton had praise for Leijon’s efforts during a recent interview.
“Shelia is talking with churches, looking for volunteers, doing everything she can to make this project work,” he said.
He also had praise for IVGID.
“They’re the grease that makes this all work,” Tarbutton said.
In order to qualify for Meals on Wheels, seniors must be 60 or older, house-bound or unable to cook for themselves. There are no income requirements.
Tarbutton said a typical scenario would be a senior living alone, homebound who may have family, but not living locally. Another scenario would be seniors living alone who have recently had surgery and are not mobile.
Temporary meal arrangements (such as during surgery recovery) can also be made with Meals on Wheels. Most referrals of potential Meals on Wheels participants come from seniors’ doctors or hospitals, Tarbutton said.
Deardorff said of the seniors now receiving meals from Sierra Senior Service, 54 percent are disabled, 75 percent live alone and 76 percent rely on Social Security as their only source of income.
“People don’t realize we have a need for this (Meals on Wheels) in Incline,” said Washoe County Manager Katy Simon. “There is a safe bet we will find people who have been suffering quietly.”
Deardorff expounded on that point: “These seniors come from the World War II era, a generation that had to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and have spent their lives being self-sufficient.”
Tarbutton said Washoe County Senior Services will spend approximately $25,000 per year on the Incline Village/Crystal Bay Meals on Wheels program, receiving funding from Washoe County. Sierra Senior Services will rely on donations and fundraisers to assist the program.
“Start looking for those friends and neighbors who may need meals on wheels,” Tarbutton said. “We want to support people so they can continue living at home independently.”
Frank Fisher is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It makes so much sense.”
IVGID Senior Programs