The Mercy Brown Bag Program addresses vocational wellness for older adults, while providing a public service to Alameda County.

A component of Elder Care Alliance’s mission is to serve and enrich the holistic wellness of older adults. Vocational wellness, recognizing personal satisfaction and enrichment through work, hobbies or volunteering, is an important aspect of holistic wellness for all of us, but especially for seniors.

To foster vocational wellness, Elder Care Alliance communities provide a variety of opportunities for involvement. One such example is the Mercy Brown Bag Program at Mercy Retirement & Care Center. The Brown Bag Program distributes nutritious bags of groceries to approximately 4,600 seniors living on a fixed income throughout Alameda County. It fills an enormous gap in the community. The most frequent comment heard by staff and volunteers is “I have no idea what I would do without this program.”

Mercy Brown Bag Program is not only vital to the people it serves, but also to the more than 500 senior volunteers who keep the program running. They sort food, deliver bags, assist with paperwork, and more. Residents in Mercy’s Memory Care program participate as well, helping to fill and count bags.

According to Krista Lucchesi, director of Mercy Brown Bag Program, it provides an opportunity for older adults to feel like they’re contributing to society again. “Retirement can be a shock,” she says. “Society sends the message that once you’re out of the workforce, you don’t have a use anymore. Through this program, they feel like they can still contribute, and that makes a huge difference.”

For the residents and volunteers, the program gives seniors a sense of purpose, while benefitting their health. Meaningful work can boost self-esteem and lower depression. It also brings more opportunity for socialization, and residents form lasting bonds.

For example, Lucchesi says volunteers who meet through the program often take care of each other. If a volunteer misses a day, she says, the others will call to check on him or her. They support one another through injury and illness, driving friends to the doctor when needed. “They’ve built these friendships by working side by side,” Lucchesi says. “It’s very meaningful.”

For more information or to donate to Mercy Brown Bag Program, call 510-534-8540 x369.