Author: Martin, George

Many hands make light work?

Shortly after I retired in 2002 I began taking my mother to lunch three days a week at the C.C. Cafe, the senior lunch program in the little town of Crockett run by the Meals on Wheels Senior Outreach people in Contra Costa County. When I saw how much she enjoyed it, my wife and I hired a local woman to take Mom the other two days. Crockett is a small town and most of the ladies who lunch there have known each other for decades. ??It tickled me that Mom was spending time with people who had played together as children 80-plus years ago.??

The way the thing works is that the people show up about 10:30 a.m. and pay 25 cents for a bingo card (more often $1.25 for five of them). Each pot is a small cash prize, maybe one dollar. The game heats up on Wednesdays when Safeway donates boxes of donuts and pastries and bread that is about to go out of date.

The lunch food arrives hot from a central kitchen in insulated boxes and it placed in a portable steam table. Salads, Jell-O and such come on ice. The food must have its temperature taken and logged before being served: hot food must be hot, and cold food must be cold.

I was a mere lad of 60 back then so I pitched in each day and helped wash the pans and bowls the food came in, rinse out the coffee maker and carry the garbage out to the dumpsters. This made me very popular, sort of like a bass player who shows up at a bass-free jam.

Some months after I began doing this it was announced that the annual Volunteer Appreciation Day was coming soon and I was invited. Arrangements began to be made for car-pooling, as some of the ladies did not drive. Serendipitously I owned a 1983 eight-passenger Dodge van, so on the appointed day I filled every seat (with the aid of a step-stool, as the van is a bit high off the ground) and off we went to a big senior center in Walnut Creek.

I hadn’t given any thought to how big a party this was going to be, so when I got there I was astonished to fine hundreds of people, mostly retirees like myself, gathered. Contra Costa is just one of 58 California counties, and we were only dealing with Meals on Wheels, C.C. Cafes (there are several), the Food Bank and Friendly Visitor programs. Statewide there must be thousands of such people. What a blessing.

Everybody got a nice lunch, a tote bag or other tchotske with “Senior Nutrition” emblazoned on it, and a bunch of people got longevity awards for the years they had spent driving meals to oldsters or doing other chores for the program.

That day really opened my eyes to the positive things that can be done by good-hearted folk who pitch in to help others. And I couldn’t help but notice there wasn’t a sad sack in the bunch; everybody in the room seemed happy and satisfied and feeling gratified that they were able to be of service.

That’s the long, slow pitch. Here’s the fast break: A certain percentage of the people who read this probably reside in California, where the CBA is always looking for helping hands. Our volunteer coordinator is Deb Livermore (, an amazing person who seems to be able to keep five balls in the air at any given time. I bet she could find a chore for you -- and you, and you.
Posted:  5/8/2014

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