USC Chan Division of Occupational Therapy
Torrance-Lomita Meals on Wheels
Our partnership with the Torrance-Lomita Meals 0n Wheels ( MoW) program began during the pandemic. In our national efforts to contain the corona virus, all of our lives changed, as businesses closed down and many people became sequestered in their homes. Here at H.E.L.P. we changed gears completely and began focusing on providing essential services to seniors. When all of the local cities had to close their senior centers and consequently terminated their breakfast and/or lunch programs, many seniors were left isolated in their homes without daily food provision. H.E.L.P. was able to support meal delivery to those impacted seniors by supporting those agencies that have meal programs in place, working with Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, and the local YMCAs, along with local cities and much needed funding provided by Los Angeles County. We began to partner with the Torrance MoW office in the meal delivery process when the provider of hot meals for the South Bay area, St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, no longer had the available volunteers to bring the meals to the South Bay, but was still able to continue meal preparation if someone could go to their L.A. facility and pick up the meals. H.E.L.P. was able to step in with our H.E.L.P. van, generously donated many years ago by Toyota Motor Co., and drive down to L.A. each morning to load up the meals and deliver them back to the South Bay, where volunteers distribute them to individual seniors in their homes. In response to dwindling volunteer numbers, more recently the team was able to switch to the preparation of frozen meals so that a week of meals could be delivered once a week for seniors to heat at home, instead of daily deliveries. We have special admiration for the Torrance/Lomita Meals on Wheels program, which has been a longtime provider of meals for seniors, and their services were needed more than ever during the pandemic. We were so grateful to partner with them and their wonderful volunteers who were willing to leave the safety of their homes to help provide for our seniors. Even though the pandemic has subsided we continue to refer seniors and others to this wonderful program.
The McMillen Family Foundation
In recent years H.E.L.P. has had the opportunity to partner with the McMillen Family Foundation in developing a program for seniors who are confronting substance abuse issues. Problems with opioids often start with the use of pain medicine after surgery without follow-up or monitoring, or being erroneously prescribed opioids for chronic pain rather than a less addictive alternative. Likewise, cocktail hour alcohol use can spiral out of control with depression or loneliness experienced after losing longtime friends or spouse.
Just when it was needed most, the McMillen Family Foundation provided an additional generous emergency pandemic relief grant to H.E.L.P. in support of continued staffing of our substance abuse awareness program for seniors and their families. During the pandemic, when most people spent many months isolated in their homes, drug and alcohol use was seen to increase exponentially. The Thelma McMillen Center for Chemical Dependency Treatment was established in 2003 at Torrance Memorial Medical Center with a $5.3 million grant by Karl B. McMillen Jr. in memory of his wife, Thelma McMillen. This gift allowed a significant expansion to Torrance Memorial’s successful chemical dependency program. Dr. Morris Gelbart, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Center, said, “We are in the business of changing lives. Our goal is to treat the whole person, not just the addiction.” Their caring counseling services can help seniors find renewed meaning in their lives and guide them to better choices. Through our McMillen partnership, H.E.L.P. can direct those who need it to substance abuse counseling and additional treatment when needed. We are grateful for this generous grant.
The Ahmanson Foundation
In addition to the generous grant received from the Ahmanson Foundation in 2019 for infrastructure and capital improvements, which also helped fund this issue of Help Is Here, H.E.L.P. also received an additional emergency Covid-19 pandemic grant in 2021 for staffing and office support. This emergency grant came at a crucial time as H.E.L.P. was working on expanding our services to more low-income areas of the South Bay, as well as confronting the growing problem of homelessness among seniors. Although we have a remarkable volunteer base, staff support is needed to oversee our programs and services. This grant enabled H.E.L.P. to retain key staff through the pandemic.
The grant also enabled H.E.L.P. to move ahead on a much-needed update of our Strategic Plan, which is vital in qualifying for major gifts that sustain our work. By re-examining our mission and setting new goals for the future, we were able to re-energize the commitment of our Board of Directors and Advisory Board, as well as our wonderful supporters. We are very fortunate to benefit from the vision of the late Los Angeles financier Howard F. Ahmanson and his wife Dorothy, founders of The Ahmanson Foundation. Their dedicated extended-family and visionary community members now carry on his work to support organizations that strive to enhance the quality of life of the Los Angeles community