Shirley Gillespie says she doesn’t have a favorite dish, but the braised beef tips transforms a mundane meal into a Saturday night out.

“It’s just delicious,” she said. “The lemon pepper fish is another Saturday night out.”

The 89-year-old Gillespie, who no longer drives, began having Meals on Wheels dishes delivered to her Kirkland apartment by Sound Generations in June.

Besides not driving, Gillespie doesn’t get out much because of the pandemic and fading eyesight. She and two friends do occasionally mask up, don gloves and go to the grocery.

“That’s about the only time we go anywhere,” she said.

She learned about the meal-delivery program by Sound Generations because she had been using the nonprofit for transportation to doctor appointments since she moved from Bellingham to the Eastside six years ago.

Sound Generations’ Meals on Wheels program is for people 60 and older who are homebound and without transportation or have difficulty shopping and cooking because of injury.

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Sound Generations is a nonprofit that has been working with older adults, caregivers and adults with disabilities in King County since 1967.The nonprofit helps about 54,000 people a year, runs six senior centers in King County and in addition to its meal and transportation programs, it offers legal assistance, health management and minor home repair and other services to seniors, caregivers and adults with disabilities.

Each year, The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy raises money for 12 charities that help children, families and senior citizens. Throughout the season, we’re telling the stories of people and organizations who make a difference in the lives of thousands, and the impact donors can have. 

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Sound Generations is one of a dozen nonprofits benefiting from readers’ donations to The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy.

The pandemic has forced Sound Generations to modify some of its programs. Besides Meals on Wheels, Sound Generation also offers another meal program called Community Dining. The program in the past has allowed seniors to gather for a fresh meal at any of the five senior centers managed by the nonprofit or at more than 20 other senior centers in King County.

The restrictions about the number of people allowed to gather have forced Sound Generations to transform the Community Dining program into a delivery service. Now, all meal programs are made to go or for delivery.

“That has been a huge pivot and transition because it is one of our meal programs that doesn’t have strict stipulations, whereas Meals on Wheels, you have to be homebound,” said Brittany Blue, chief marketing and philanthropy officer at Sound Generations.

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During a typical year Sound Generations will serve about 136,000 meals through Community Dining. This year, it is on track to serve more than 200,000 meals, Blue said.

To deal with the increased demand for delivered meals, Sound Generations had to repurpose drivers for another program.

The Hyde Shuttle program, which provides door-to-door van service for older adults and adults with disabilities, decreased as recipients stayed home, allowing those shuttle drivers to be diverted to the meal-delivery programs, Blue said.

“We converted 21 of our drivers to support the community dining program so that we could deliver meals to those older adults who weren’t driving or didn’t want to drive so that they could receive meals,” she said.

Alan Woog started using Meals on Wheels a couple of years before the pandemic after being slowed by a couple of heart surgeries in 2016 and 2017. The program has worked so well for Woog that he has increased his use of Meals on Wheels.

“In this age bracket of over 90, 90 plus, you become more aware that you’re going to be less ambulatory, your reactions are not quite as fast and you’re very aware that you don’t want to fall down so you start to limit your activities,” Woog said.

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Until his heart problems, Woog was active, winning the 90 and older United States Tennis Association doubles title in 2014. He skied until he was 80. The retired forestry consultant was also an avid hiker and organized horseback trips into the Pacific Northwest’s wilderness areas.

Woog looked into some other meal-delivery services, which he found too expensive and geared toward younger people. His reaction when someone suggested Sound Generations was that he thought “Meals on Wheels was only for the low income,” a category he didn’t fit into. Meals on Wheels serves any homebound adult 60 and older.

Another benefit of the program is seeing and talking to the people who deliver the meals on Thursdays because interaction with others has become more difficult with the twin impediments of not driving and the pandemic, Woog said.

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Gillespie said the meal-delivery program is good enough to mark a milestone birthday.

“I have my 90th in January,” she said, “so I guess I’ll celebrate with a braised beef tips.”

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WHAT YOUR DONATION CAN MEAN FOR SOUND GENERATIONS

$25: Five nutritious meals through Meals on Wheels for a homebound elder.

$50: Trains volunteers to help seniors understand health-insurance options and legal rights.

$100: Minor home repairs allowing seniors to remain safe in their homes.

$200: Social-worker-hosted support group for unpaid caregivers or people affected by memory loss.