At 40, Meals on Wheels still delivers

kjahner@newsobserver.comJune 17, 2014 

— Some need the food. Others the company. And Meals on Wheels delivers. Literally. Not that seniors receiving the meals would expect anything less from an organization that’s only middle-aged.

Meals on Wheels celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding Wednesday with lunch and cake at a packed dining hall at the Garner Senior Center. The event was marked by a speech by Mayor Ronnie Williams.

The organization started with 10 people delivering nine meals out of Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh in 1974. Since, it has grown to serve 1,250 meals per day out of eight locations.

Its largest site happens to be in Garner, where 50-60 meals are delivered and another 80-100 are served at the senior center each weekday.

“Garner has always been a great partner with us. They’re very accommodating, they do everything they can to make it easy for us,” said Linda Roan, nutrition program director for Meals on Wheels of Wake County.

Volunteers key the program at the senior center. Site director Sarahgale Holbrook has worked for the organization for seven years, and her husband Henry Holbrook for 15.

As she cut one of two celebratory cakes commemorating the occasion, Sarahgale marveled at how the program has grown even in her limited time.

“(The celebratiuon) sort of validates that they’re coming here and that this is worth their time. I just think it’s a great thing that they’ve done, have a celebration and show that Meals on Wheels is a worthwhile project,” Holbrook said.

For her husband, the event said something about the town’s attitude toward seniors.

“It means more for the volunteers and the city, an attitude of taking care of the seniors. It tells the seniors we care aobut them, they have a place that they can go and have fellowship and have a meal,” he said.

Henry Holbrook also spoke about the importance of getting people to help. He related it to the nationally publicized problems with the Veterans Administration and suggested that people looking to help sometimes could do more than merely throwing money at a problem.

“A lot of people would volunteer to help if they knew what to do and how to do it and were connected,” he said.

At the event, three long tables with as many as 20 people on each side were nearly full of seniors. The patrons chatted as they ate, some occasionally smiling as they had their pictures taken.

While Meals on Wheels started to help feed seniors on fixed income and with limited mobility, its efforts have expanded. Now, in Garner at least, it serves more people at the Senior Center than through delivery.

“They may not need the food, but they need the fellowship,” Roan said. “A lot of them have made friends here. We’ve had a couple meet and get married.”

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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