One recent day, Sergey Mozolevskiy braved a driving rainstorm in West Sacramento to deliver a lunch of crispy baked fish, cheesy spuds and coleslaw.
Everyone who answered the door not only received the food, but a smile and greeting from Mozolevskiy, a volunteer with Meals on Wheels Yolo County. There was the elderly woman who said she only had yogurt left in her fridge. There was the veteran who insisted we pray together before leaving.
And there was 77-year-old Maureen Crabaugh, a client for five years, who had her tray and bib all set up to eat when we arrived. “It’s just wonderful to me,” she said. “It gives me a good basic meal every day.”
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This, folks, is the program that Donald Trump’s budget director declared is “just not showing any results,” so deserves to have its funding cut.
To me, a decent meal and some human contact count for a lot, but Mick Mulvaney thinks he knows better.
His dismissive comment in mid-March caused shockwaves in nonprofit circles. Christi Skibbins, executive director of Meals on Wheels Yolo County, says she was incredulous – and angry.
“You can’t print what I said,” she told me. “We see the results every day.”
She sees the elderly clients who can stay in their home longer, remain healthier and don’t have to choose between food and medicine. She sees the 150 neediest who get a bag of groceries at the end of the month to tide them over until their Social Security check arrives. And she sees the 70 seniors on the wait list and says demand will only increase as baby boomers age.
Trump’s budget outline would slash domestic spending – including safety net programs and funding for the arts and public broadcasting – to boost defense spending by $54 billion, about 10 percent. That puts the Pentagon first, but the president hasn’t explained how that helps the rest of America.
Potential government budget cuts make private donations to charity even more important. However the political winds are blowing, you can’t go wrong by giving to groups that help your neighbors and strengthen your community.
That’s the plea coming from leaders of the Sacramento region’s fifth Big Day of Giving. The website opened for business Friday and the marketing push begins Monday, leading up to the 24-hour online fundraising marathon on May 4.
Meals on Wheels Yolo County is one of 600 nonprofits taking part, up from 570 in 2016. The total donated has jumped from $3 million in 2014 to $7.1 million last year, which organizers hope to beat this year.
To that end, there are two changes of note. One, the minimum online gift is $15, down from $25, which is designed to attract more donors than the 13,800 last year, which fell way short of the 30,000 goal. Second, there’s a new vendor after a nationwide website crash crippled the event here and more than 50 others around the nation. The local campaign was extended by 15 hours to compensate.
The Sacramento Region Community Foundation, which oversees the Day of Giving, says there’s a lot of conversation and consternation among nonprofits about Trump’s proposed budget. But foundation Chief Executive Linda Beech Cutler says nonprofit leaders can’t get wrapped up in the what-ifs. “We have to take a wait-and-see attitude,” she says.
After all, when agencies have been targeted by the president, it has raised their profile and led to more support from Trump resisters on social media and financially.
Call it the Trump effect.
It worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood and now for Meals on Wheels. The day Trump’s budget was released in March, Meals on Wheels America saw a spike in donations and volunteer sign-ups.
But the anti-Trump backlash can have its downside if donors believe that by giving to the national group, they’ve done their part. Meals on Wheels America is trying to make clear that it doesn’t directly provide meals, the 5,000 local programs do. While Meals on Wheels Yolo County also had an uptick in donations, it would need much more if Congress approves Trump’s spending plan, Skibbins says.
Meals on Wheels Yolo County has an $1.5 million annual budget and gets about 6 percent of its funding from programs on the chopping block, plus another 16 percent from the Older Americans Act, which also could be slashed. It solicits private donations and also relies on food given or sold at cost by local groceries.
While some affiliates are using frozen or prepackaged meals to cut costs, Yolo still has the old-school program that you probably think of as Meals on Wheels. It cooks about 350 meals each weekday at its central kitchen in Woodland, delivering two-thirds of them to homes and serving the rest at gathering places in Davis, Winters, Woodland and West Sacramento.
On the day I visited Riverbend Manor, a senior housing complex in West Sacramento that used to be an elementary school, there were 95 home deliveries scheduled plus 19 signed up to eat together. There are about 400 volunteers to supplement the six full-time and 12 part-time staff.
Mozolevskiy and his wife Natasha volunteer four times a week combined. They live in Citrus Heights and own a family printing and graphics company in Carmichael. Sergey Mozolevskiy, 30, who came to Sacramento from Lithuania in 1995, said he signed up a little more than a year ago when he was searching for a way to do some good.
“It’s been fun,” he says. Even finding a client dead on the floor didn’t scare him off, and he says he likes talking to people and seeing them get better.
“A little bit of light to these people puts a smile on their faces,” he says.
Maybe even Mulvaney would agree that result should count.
Big Day of Giving
The Sacramento area’s online fund-raising marathon for nonprofit groups has grown each year:
Source: Sacramento Region Community Foundation