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Sequester Series: Hungry Hearts
updated: Aug 31, 2013, 4:00 PM
By Alex Kacik
Opal Montgomery, who is 90 years old, has some advice for young Guillermo Navarro.
"Have fun while you're young because it's a little difficult when you're a bit older," she tells the athletic
25-year-old who has just put Montgomery's meal-pork chops, mashed potatoes, broccoli, carrots and
cauliflower-in the microwave.
"We'd go out and we used to foxtrot," Montgomery reminisces from her recliner. Her big, black poodle
greets Navarro who has joined Montgomery in the living room after warming her lunch and stocking her
refrigerator with milk, juice and an orange.
"Then, I did the Charleston," she continues, "which begins to date me."
Navarro has delivered warm meals to Montgomery's Carpinteria condo many times and has likely heard
this all before. Still, he listens intently to what Montgomery calls her sermons of the day: "It's easier to
be nice than mean," she says, and "smiles don't cost a thing."
Guillermo Navarro delivers the goods. (Alex Kacik)
There are about two dozen stops on his rounds, but Navarro's not about to cut off Montgomery.
"Sometimes I come by and they haven't talked to someone for days," he says. "It really opens your eyes
and shows you how challenging things can get when you are older. It helps you appreciate life."
Navarro delivers food to 26 low-income seniors and a handful of nonprofits and social service providers
throughout Carpinteria. He starts prepping food at around 7 a.m. at the Back Door Deli on Camino del
Remedio. Navarro carefully packs chests of food, heating plates, plastic trays and a dolly, organizing the
jigsaw puzzle of meals and storage containers into the Senior Nutrition Services panel van. Rihanna's
"Stay," playing on the radio, echoes through the van as Navarro makes trips back and forth from the
The determined young man with a passion for soccer works for the Community Action Commission
(CAC), a nonprofit organization that offers services such as early education and daily meals for children
and seniors. Navarro stops at nonprofit centers such as Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, an after-school
program for girls; the Friendship Center, which serves people with Alzheimer's disease; and the early-
education Head Start school. He visits the Sandpiper Mobile Village and San Roque Mobile Home Park,
condos and townhome residences. Some people invite Navarro into their homes and ask him to help
with chores such as replacing batteries in a clock or carrying water. Others leave a cooler outside their
doors with a note.
A few of the seniors Navarro visits can get around to one degree or another, while others are bedridden.
Navarro says one woman had an eviction notice on her Carpinteria apartment door for months. Another
has told Navarro that she sometimes doesn't eat until he drops off lunch. For some, Navarro's visit
means a source of sustenance they couldn't otherwise afford. For many others, it may amount to the
only conversation they will have that day.
"I always feel like somebody up there is watching over me, and if they are watching over me, they are
watching over other people," says the silver-haired Montgomery, who speaks slow and softly, smiling
often. "It kind of makes you feel warm that someone cares about me."
To read the rest of this article, visit Mission and State.org
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