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“Friendship. That’s one thing that keeps you young,” proclaimed Robert ‘Bob’ Huerta.
I would add Christmas decorations to that list if I were compiling lessons on staying young from Bob and his wife Caty. “She goes by Catalina only if you’re mad at her,” laughs Bob.
The moment I stepped into their elaborately decorated home near City College, I couldn’t imagine being mad at anyone! The entrance is adorned with red and gold ornaments hanging from the ceiling, a sprawling home-made creche scene spreads over a 5 foot table in the basement, and even the pet parrot has a small tree sitting on top of his cage. When asked who is behind this masterpiece, Bob quickly holds up his hands (almost in self-defense) and says, “I take my orders from the boss” with a wink at Caty.
The Christmas decorations are but one example of the many ways Bob and Caty have embraced their golden years. They have yet to slow down after 65 years of marriage, raising 4 children in San Francisco, and being at the helm of an even larger flock of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
For Bob and Caty, their daily delivery of Meals On Wheels keeps them healthy, happy, and feeling confident about living independently well into their 80s. And like many of the 2,400 seniors who receive meals from us every day, they were pleasantly surprised to discover our services go beyond meals and wheels. Bob was thrilled when he found out we honor veterans like himself with a Homebound Heroes grant from the Home Depot Foundation; funds allocated exclusively to veterans and their families to make basic home safety improvements. “Our social worker Kristi found some money to help install banisters and metal bars in the bathroom.”
Every day, Bob looks forward to the juice, cottage cheese, and meat that comes with most meals. When pressed to name his favorite meal, he simply said, “I eat everything! Food is my weakness; food and sleep!” And coming from a man who spent years as a chef, this is a big compliment!
In San Francisco, 78% of Meals On Wheels seniors live below the federal poverty line. In the past decade, Meals On Wheels has nearly tripled our meal deliveries from 570,000 meals in 2007 to 1.6 meals by the end of 2015. This is due, in part, to three major economic and social barriers that are affecting low-income seniors: the absence of safety net services that covers the cost of food, medicine, and housing; seniors who live far away from their families; and the sky-rocketing cost of living in San Francisco. Bob and Caty are two of the lucky seniors who are surrounded by loved ones who look out for them, and yet they still need a little extra boost to make ends meet.
As I wrapped up a whirlwind story-telling session with Bob and Caty – from their first encounter at the California State Fair in the late 40’s to their groundbreaking effort to introduce a Spanish language mass at Mission Dolores in the early 60’s – I felt like I had experienced a century in San Francisco. Together, they combine all of the necessary ingredients for a long and happy life – 65 years of marriage filled with an abundance of friendship, family, and shared adventures. And sprinkled with a healthy dose of delightful decorations!
Written by Karl Robillard, Meals On Wheels Director of Marketing & Communications