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In the Fast Lane: Kevin McAllister

Kevin McAllister

Executive Director, Meals on Wheels by VAC

This story is part of our July 2022 Young Professionals print issue. To subscribe, click here.

At 40, Kevin McAllister struggles to remember a time when he didn’t make tough decisions.

He started early, joining AmeriCorps to work in early childhood literacy while attending Solano Community College. He later graduated from Sacramento State and earned a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from National University in 2011, participating virtually while working full-time for the San Juan Unified School District overseeing their Bridges program after school. ‘school. In 2010, he founded a nonprofit to advance opportunities for young adoptees in the Sacramento area — he was informally adopted at age 15 — and has since held leadership positions in various organizations. non-profit.

But it was in his role as executive director of Meals on Wheels by ACC, which hired him in 2019, that his acumen was most tested.

Meals on Wheels America is a program run by the nonprofit ACC Senior Services that supports Sacramento County seniors with nutritious meals, social connections, information about community resources, and other essential services. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the program delivered an average of 491,000 meals a year to seniors, five days a week, with a small group of paid drivers and about 500 volunteers, many of them retirees. When COVID-19 forced people in, it increased the need for meal deliveries, but reduced the Meals on Wheels volunteer pool by about 60%.

It could have been a perfect storm. But that was not the case.

Sending volunteers home in the early days of the pandemic, when they were most needed, was perhaps the most difficult decision McAllister has ever made. “I had just enough time to learn what Meals on Wheels was doing and get to know my staff before it went into COVID mode,” McAllister says, adding that people were scared and unsure what was going to happen next. . “Is this the right decision? he remembers wondering. “What if COVID doesn’t spread like they say? »

In the end, McAllister “went with his instincts.” Before most people fully realized the severity of COVID-19, he was already stocking up on supplies and pallets of food. His preparation paid off.

“Mission isn’t just about old people here…it’s about old people everywhere. My people, that is, human beings, we should show ourselves for each other.

Kevin McAllister, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels by VAC

“We were not only able to continue operations, but we ordered so many additional supplies that we were able to help other senior nutrition programs across the state. … It’s something I’m proud of,” McAllister says. “Mission isn’t just about old people here…it’s about old people everywhere. My people, that is, human beings, we should show ourselves for each other.

Reserve rations weren’t the only fuel behind Meals on Wheels. She also enjoyed the support of a community that recognized the urgency of the mission. At a time of great need, firefighters and law enforcement officers stepped up.

“We had all these essential workers coming together to help feed the elderly,” says McAllister, recalling the early weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown.

In the weeks and months ahead, McAllister and his team will find new (and better) ways to deliver meals, now every day of the week. The program partners with local restaurants, food banks and delivery services like DoorDash and offers hazard pay to employees.

“We never had to shut down and we were able to increase our capacity by more than 125%,” says McAllister. “We have built a whole new program around this and will continue to partner with restaurants to provide meals for seniors.”

In 2021, Meals on Wheels fed 4,443 seniors for a total of 526,000 meals, 35,000 meals more than their pre-COVID average.

When asked how he makes decisions with such high stakes, McAllister replied, “My goal is always to do what’s best for the people I serve, and so I don’t make decisions at the slight, but I take them because they have to be taken so that we can truly fulfill the mission of our organization.

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