My Volunteer Journal: Episode 4 – Two Actors Tearing Up LA for Meals on Wheels

meals-on-wheelsIt’s 10:30 in the morning and I’m nibbling on donated Starbucks muffins and sipping juice waiting for my escort to arrive.  Pam and Ellen, the two women who run the Meals on Wheels of West Los Angeles office, seem to be excited about his entrance as well -after all movie star Chris Ellis is nothing if not fun.  Suddenly I hear the melodious sound of four letter words being strung together in inventive combinations and I know he's in the building.  Believe it or not I met Chris at one of my bi-yearly appearances at church. He’s a chameleon like actor who’s starred in over 15 major motion pictures and is a regular on my brothers favorite show “Burn Notice.”  Chris’s most amazing feature is his Oxford English Dictionary sized vocabulary, but he does not discriminate against more “colloquial phrasing.”

Pam and Ellen hand us the Meals on Wheels guidebook, newspapers, and the donated plastic sacks for our philanthropic mission. We jumped into Chris’s Prius and off we sped like Britney Spears on a bender to wreck havoc on Los Angeles without the drugs, entourage, mini skirts, paparazzi, or… okay there was no havoc.

When Chris first invited me to help him deliver for Meals on Wheels in West LA, which he has volunteered for since the mid 90’s, I ignorantly scoffed at the idea that the richest part of the city would need as much help as the poorer areas.  Chris patiently replied that I should just join him because it would be eye opening.

 Eye opening it was and soon I was chewing on my foot.  Meals on Wheels delivers not only to the homebound elderly, but also the needy and wounded individuals like veteran who simply can’t get out to the grocery store anymore.  We had a few people in each category on our drive – some too disabled to come to the door, some limped on crutches to see us so they could thank us for the sack of cold food and a hot lunch, some with pictures of World War II battalions on their walls, and others living in rooms small, dark and decrepit. WE handed many of them a donated copy of the LA Times and they were elated – a small piece of the outside world for their consumption.

This activity changed my perspective and rarely have I had so much fun.  Of course when you volunteer with an actor you should expect to be entertained with stories of sets, and stars, and even struggles. 

I left the day with a new appreciation: this food gathering activity I bemoaned having to do every week shouldn’t be thought of as a chore  – I can go to the grocery – not I have to go to the grocery.

Meals on Wheels is hurting right now due to high gas prices, rising food cost, and increased demand as more and more people slip into poverty.  If you have a working vehicle or can donate any amount of time during the week go to type Meals on Wheels and your city to find a local chapter.  They asked for financial donations instead of food donations, as many of the meals are prepared for special dietary needs.  Chris expressed the wish that more actors participate in this organization as their schedules are generally more flexible than most.  I think anyone who has the possibility of being homebound one day should volunteer. Yes.  That means everyone.  Just to be crystal.