Meals on Wheels Like a Family to Keith
April 15, 2022Jim Oswald

“I tried to stand up, but I could not,” Keith, a Meals on Wheels client, said. “I didn’t realize the severity of my injuries, so I tried to stand again and just fell right back down.”

In 2020, Keith experienced a terrible accident. He was visiting a friend in San Francisco when he leaned outside of a window to retrieve an item that was sitting on the ledge. Keith misjudged the distance and fell out of the one-story window to the hard ground below, breaking both of his wrists as well as his left ankle.

What Keith did not know as he collapsed on the sidewalk was that the broken bone in his ankle had pierced through the skin. After receiving medical care, Keith returned to his Bernal Heights home where he currently lives today. Things were not the same – he loved to cook, but due to his permanently damaged ankle, it pained him to stand for extended periods of time. His right wrist was, and remains, permanently fused, immobile.

Keith also realized something else, with his mobility significantly diminished, he needed to figure out how he was going to get and prepare food.

“My sister Reynella recommended I get Meals on Wheels,” he explained. She was struggling with underlying medical conditions including cancer and dialysis in 2020 and started receiving home-delivered meals in August of the same year.

“She said contact Meals on Wheels, they have a really good service.”

So, in December, Keith, who is now 61, contacted the San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services, and a few weeks later was receiving home-delivered meals from Meals on Wheels San Francisco.

“Ever since then, it’s been a good experience. It’s good to have someone check in on you and ask how your days are going,” Keith explained. “A lot of senior citizens out there, they need support – not just food, but a good voice – a caring voice, it means a lot.”

Today, Keith’s mobility remains limited, and he relies on a cane to get around.

Sadly, in 2021, Reynella passed away. Keith was one of 13 kids in his family and Reynella was “the glue” that held everyone together.

He and his family moved from Mississippi to San Francisco when he was seven. There were more opportunities out west for his family – particularly for his mom who had graduated from historic Alcorn State University with a teaching degree. She enrolled in a Master’s program at San Francisco State, and shortly after began a successful career teaching middle and high schools for more than 25 years.

Keith followed a similar pathway as a young adult, earning his undergraduate degree in business administration and technology at San Francisco State. Shortly after graduation, he landed a job at Franklin Templeton Trust in San Mateo.

His real passion, though, was in helping youth and young adults find their way in a difficult and often-times judgmental world that frowned upon past misdeeds. This ethos is what brought him to work at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, and with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice as a Reentry Employment Services Coordinator and Job Readiness Facilitator. He devoted his career to helping teens and those in their early 20s, some with criminal records, get connected to vocational training, and jobs with career track potential.

When asked about Meals on Wheels food and services, you could hear the smile in Keith’s voice over the phone.

“The [Meals on Wheels] food is great – I like to cross-pollenate it – mixing meals together to make something else. It is not just nutritious, it tastes good!”

The food is not the only thing he appreciates about Meals on Wheels.

“You know, Meals on Wheels always contacts me to see how I’m doing…they just make things feel like a family,” said Keith.

Today, Keith, lives with his grandson, accompanying him to basketball practices. He has coached various grades of basketball from grade school through high school but no longer can coach due to atrial firibilation. Despite his injuries and undelrying health conditions, he loves to do yoga daily, read his Bible, compose music on his keyboard, and play Xbox games. All of this, he says, helps keep his body and mind active – a key for all of us as we grow older.

His nearly 4-year-old German Shepard, “Lightning”, also helps keep loneliness at bay.

“When I’m not feeling well, he knows.” He is always at my side; he is a good companion.”



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