shannon

What would you do after a 44-year career of public service, almost half of that square in the public eye as one of Long Beach's top elected officials?

How about delivering a meal or two to people who are isolated and often unable to fend for themselves?

Robert "Bob" Shannon was a municipal attorney for more than 40 years, 39 in Long Beach. For the last 15 of those years, he was the Long Beach City Attorney, winning four elections. Before his election in 1998, he served as assistant city attorney for 13 years.

Not long after his retirement, Shannon began looking around for a different type of way to serve the community. He came across Long Beach Meals On Wheels.

"It is a valuable service," Shannon said. "It's very locally based. And it's needed."

So Shannon signed up in 2015. He and his partner Paul Rosa deliver between eight and 15 meals each Tuesday. Their route is one of seven based in North Long Beach.

"We have over 360 volunteers who support our agency each week," Bill Cruikshank, Long Beach executive director, said. "All have a heart of solid gold and have over time made this work a part of their life, once a week or more. This is where they come to help someone less fortunate, alone and isolated, and share their joy."

Long Beach Meals on Wheels delivers food to almost 400 people five days a week. Each delivery includes two meals — a cold lunch and a hot dinner (or vice-versa). It isn't charity — the clients or caretakers pay a minimal amount for the food.

Food is prepared off-site, then packaged into individual meals by volunteers and sent out to the delivery centers. Seven teams work out of the Bixby Knolls Christian Church on Carson. This Tuesday is a light one for Shannon and Rosa — only eight deliveries.

After loading up, Rosa gets behind the wheel. Shannon is the "friendly visitor," taking the meals to the door and interacting with his "clients," so he rides shotgun.

"Our first stop is for Mike," Shannon says. " He's quite the guy. He'll probably tell you about all his girlfriends."

Mike Elton wheels around the corner from the courtyard as Shannon approaches the door of the apartment. He's confined to a wheelchair, his legs atrophied after a car accident that left him in a coma for five months. He invites Shannon into his home, which is spotless and organized.

"Where are your girlfriends, Mike?" Shannon kids. "I'm supposed to see one in a few minutes," Mike replies, dead serious.

Two stops later, Janis Hammons comes out of her apartment to give Shannon a hug. She talks about appearing at an event for Meals on Wheels — she's been a client for years. "I don't cook," she smiles. Shannon says later Hammons has survived bouts with cancer and other diseases.

"Over half of the clients we serve tell us that the only visitor they see all week is their MOW ‘friendly visitor'," Cruikshank said. "Through these visits, our volunteers are able to get to know ‘their clients' as real people and the most amazing relationships result."

Shannon was asked about 18 months ago to join the Meals On Wheels board — another volunteer position. He is serving now as the board's president.

But he maintains it is those Tuesday mornings he lives for.

"In Bob's case, he has learned what his clients' likes are, specifically what kind of juice they like, maybe something we don't serve," Cruikshank said. "He'll stop at a store and pick up an apple juice for one of the elderly ladies and something else for another client on his route; every week he does this. It's like his own special gift."

Shannon shrugs off any credit for what he does.

"This has been so fulfilling," Shannon said. "It's a good way to live, helping people. l have never felt so fulfilled."

Meals On Wheels Long Beach is planning its first evening fundraiser on Sept. 19, and volunteers are always welcome. For more information, go to mowlb.org.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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