Daryl Twerdahl retires after 31 years with Meals on Wheels

| October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments


Daryl Twerdahl, Hancock Park, a 1994 Larchmont Chronicle Woman of Larchmont, retired from St. Vincent Meals on Wheels (SVMOW) last month after a total of 31 years volunteering and working for the organization.

Inspired by a meeting with SVMOW founder Sister Alice Marie Quinn, Twerdahl began volunteering with local support group, Cuisine á Roulettes, in 1989. At the time, she owned a business on Larchmont Boulevard (Village Catering Co.) and also would help Sr. Alice Marie deliver meals to seniors residing in the neighborhood.

In 2002, Twerdahl transitioned onto the organization’s staff as the director of annual giving, a role that expanded to director of development, then executive director of development, then interim executive director. A 2018 interview about her SVMOW involvement follows below.

“Since 1989, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels has been my home away from home, first as a volunteer and later as staff. So many of you — donors, volunteers and employees — have become life-long friends. It has been a privilege to do this work with you, and I will miss you all,” wrote Twerdahl in a farewell statement.

In May 2018, “Voyage LA” interviewed Twerdahl, and an extract of the full interview, at tinyurl.com/y4kv4v77, is here:

“I grew up in the South where stories matter. And this is my story.

“In 1989, my much-beloved grandfather became ill and needed to be placed in assisted living for a short period of time until we could arrange support for him in his own home. During that time, I traveled from Los Angeles to Arkansas on a regular basis to visit Pop. On what turned out to be my last visit to him in assisted living, Pop, at age 92, began to cry. He wanted to go home. He wanted to be in a place he knew and a place that held many cherished memories for him. This was remarkable to me. I had never seen my grandfather cry, not when his daughter, my mother, died or when his wife, my grandmother, died. It was a sure sign that Pop meant it — he wanted to be at home. And, indeed he was able to go home because we were able to provide the intervention of food and support for him at home.

DARYL TWERDAHL (right) with, from left, Chef Mark Peel, Chef Kevin Meehan and Chef Sally Camacho at a morning show shoot for SVMOW’s “Food is Love” fundraiser in 2019.

“I came back from that visit both moved and determined that if I could ever help other seniors stay in their own homes, I would. And then, the proverbial lightning struck! I learned about a Daughter of Charity, Sr. Alice Marie Quinn, and the program she founded and ran, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. The day that I first met Sister, she told me that many seniors, just like Pop, really want to stay in their own homes and that often Meals on Wheels could make that possible with daily meals and visits. Sister, lovingly called SAM by her friends, explained the importance of serving seniors with the values of compassion and respect. I was inspired by the care provided to homebound seniors who really had no one but Meals on Wheels. I kept imagining my grandfather alone and hungry. It was unthinkable.

“Thus, in 1989, my journey with Meals on Wheels began. I owned a business on Larchmont Boulevard and Sister would send a Meals on Wheels van to Larchmont to meet me, and off we would go to deliver meals in the neighborhood where I worked and lived. I had 13 years of awesome experiences and opportunities to change lives through volunteering at St. Vincent Meals on Wheels when my next chapter opened.

“Sister asked me to help with fundraising. Though I had no experience doing that, she knew that I had the heart for the seniors. I still had my business and my family but nonetheless, I began working with SAM three days a week, though as my husband pointed out, I am too much of a type A personality to do something halfway. Sister got a good deal! The director of annual giving became full-time as more seniors needed our support. That role expanded to director of development and then to executive director of development, and that led, 16 years later, to the position of interim executive director of St. Vincent Meals on Wheels following the death of Sr. Alice Marie.

“Every day has its challenges but every day we get to save lives. I can’t ask for a better opportunity to live my life fully. There are challenges for sure, but every senior we serve has a story of their own, and they share those stories with us. When I hear a senior’s voice whisper a ‘thank you’ or say ‘If it weren’t for Meals on Wheels, I would have nothing to eat.’ I know that what we do each day is what we are meant to do. And my story is here.”

The interviewer asked, “Has it been a smooth road?”

“The 29-year road [now 31-year —Ed.] has been the journey of a lifetime. It has been filled with ups and downs and struggles and successes. But, it is definitely a ride worth taking — and like so much more in life, that ride may never be smooth. My most rewarding accomplishments are the ones that were the toughest. The obstacles that have tested me have also helped me appreciate the successes I have had.

“When I first began my volunteer chapter here, I delivered to a lady who was cranky and demanding — in fact, she actually made me cry. I was young and hadn’t really been exposed to the kind of attitude she had. I will never forget coming back to the kitchen and walking into Sr. Alice Marie’s office — telling her every detail of my tale of woe. I still remember the senior chastised me because she said she was NOT a vegetarian and we had sent her a vegetarian meal. I remember apologizing while trying to figure out what to do. When I relayed all this to Sister, her response was simple. ‘Daryl, she is lonely and the only way she has to keep you there is to complain.’ That was as though a new day of understanding had dawned. That one lesson I learned on that particular day at Meals on Wheels provided a turning point for my understanding of our service. That senior and the challenge she presented slapped me with an understanding of compassion and what it means to really serve with compassion. …”

The interviewer asked Twerdahl to explain “what sets MOW apart from others?”

“St. Vincent Meals on Wheels is the largest privately funded Meals on Wheels program in the country. Founded over 40 years ago, our mission has never wavered or changed. The core values of the Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul are the basis of all that we do, and they inform the way we deliver service to our homebound seniors every day.

“Our mission is to serve anyone in need regardless of age, religion, ethnicity, disability or ability to pay. Unlike many Meals on Wheels programs that are dependent on government funding, we do not have a wait list for seniors to eat. When a senior reaches out, we respond. Our mission distinguishes us and allows us to always be the safety net program for our hungry seniors. The compassion which we demonstrate each time we deliver a meal and a smile drive us and continue to be the backbone of St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. The relationships we form and the work we do, becoming family for our seniors, is what I am most proud of.

“It is this that makes my heart sing!”

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