If you’ve called Meals on Wheels San Francisco during the last two decades, you will have been greeted by the reassuring voice of Miss Harvi Brantley.
Our meal recipients know the friendly voice that listens on the other end of the phone and often calls asking for Miss Harvi simply needing someone who will listen, and she does.
In 2000, Meals on Wheels drivers gave her the name “Miss Harvi,” a sign of the deep respect, that she has fostered as the Customer Service Lead and Office Manager for the organization. If you ask her supervisor, she’ll say, “It takes four people to fill Miss Harvi’s shoes when she goes on vacation.”
Daily, Miss Harvi answers more than 100 calls and responds to at least 60 voicemails. When she’s not on the phone, she’s managing all the mail, and office supplies, routing donor checks that have been mailed in, and she ensures visitors to our building are welcomed and directed to the person they’re here to see. No one knows how she does it all and does so always with a smile on her face and in her voice.
The answer to her resilience may be rooted in her past. In 1995, her beloved youngest son died from an illness.
“It was so devastating; my grief was indescribable, Harvi explained. ” I stayed home for a long time. After a few years, I realized I needed to get out of the house and that’s when I found out about Meals on Wheels.
Harvi came on board to answer the phones — the person on the other end was, many times, someone with whom she could identify with. Speaking with and listening to older people allowed her to hear the loneliness in their voices. It was a voice familiar to hers. Within that first week on the job, Meals on Wheels brought Harvi to a realization: she was not alone.
“Sometimes, listening and offering a few words can make someone’s day better. Helping others allowed me to confront my healing and journey forward,” says Harvi.
Miss Harvi has seen Meals on Wheels as an organization grow significantly over the years — a sign that the need for meals and services for older, homebound San Franciscans is even more relevant and needed today.
When she started, we served approximately 600 older people a day. Today, that number has grown to 3,000 people — many of whom live alone and who live on less than $1000 a month.
Now, 17 years later, Harvi still enjoys answering the phones and speaking with our clients. She refers to this as her desire and “gift to serve others.”
Listening to the struggles and challenges faced by our neighbors and local communities is not for everyone, but, when you ask Miss Harvi, she says our clients have helped her too.
“I get the biggest joy at my job hearing back from our clients after they’ve received a cupcake for their birthday (a tradition started more than four years ago) or when I receive a call from a client who shows their appreciation for the meals and the drivers delivering those meals.”