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Meals On Wheels Volunteers Concerned About Vulnerable Elderly During Outage

WALNUT CREEK (KPIX 5) -- Volunteers and caregivers in the East Bay are checking on seniors who have no idea about the PG&E power shutdowns.

For many, the loss of power for a few days will be a huge inconvenience but for the most vulnerable, it can be far more serious.

PG&E has been telling people for months that they should prepare for power outages. But there are those who simply can't. To meet them, you just have to take a ride with Dean Langston. He is a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels and says most of the elderly clients on his delivery list have no idea what's going on.

"The thought hasn't even crossed many of their minds that they need some water and some basic food and the refrigerator might shut off for a few days and the food might go bad," he said.

That was true when he dropped off a meal to Ellen Taggart Wednesday morning. She lives alone in her San Ramon apartment and seemed confused by the things Dean was telling her.

"I'm all mixed up," she said. "I don't know what you're doing or how to do it or what it's doing. I never…I haven't even thought about this."

The flashlight in her living room was broken, but Dean helped her find a working one near her bed. He tried to warn her about the danger of food spoiling, but it didn't seem to register. And then he said the one thing that really meant something to Ellen: "Somebody will be by tomorrow."

"OK, then let me know. I don't know what the hell this is anyway. Excuse my English," she replied.

It was pretty much the same thing at every stop. Some clients had more awareness than others. But none have the ability to care for themselves, especially alone and in the dark.

"I just hope they don't eat some bad food at some point," Langston said, adding that the situation can be scary for the particular demographic he serves.

There are a thousand people who survive on what Meals on Wheels brings them in the Diablo Region alone. And the program's Nutrition Services Manager, Nancy Raniere, says if the power is cut to their kitchen, they will not be able to provide food.

"Do you think the people who make these kind of policies understand that there are this many vulnerable people out there?" she was asked.

"I think it would be good for them to go on a ride-along," she replied, "and see what these people, what situation these people are in and what might happen if the power does go out for that length of time."

The Meals on Wheels Diablo Region has a team of 400 volunteers and services the area of Central and East Contra Costa County. They say even if the kitchen is shut down, they will still continue the daily welfare visits because without them, this attempt to prevent a disaster could easily cause one.

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