VINTON–Tickets are now on sale for “Let’s Do Lunch,” the annual fundraiser sponsored by the LOA (Local Office on Aging) which supports the Meals on Wheels program.
This year’s event–scheduled for Friday, June 17–will once again be held in the Kazim Temple Ballroom in Roanoke, with world class entertainment by Jane Powell with William Penn and Friends. The luncheon runs from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Last year’s luncheon was packed to the gills with an exuberant crowd enjoying the food and the show. Powell has said that she plans to keep coming back year after year as long as she is able.
According to Shannon Abell, the Director of Senior Services for the LOA, this fundraiser directly impacts the Vinton area as 34 of its citizens currently benefit from the Meals on Wheels program.
Meals on Wheels provides hot meals five days a week, Monday-Friday, to 600 individuals in the Fifth Planning District which covers Vinton, Roanoke, Salem, Covington, and the counties of Roanoke, Alleghany, Botetourt, and Craig.
To qualify for the program, a person must be age 60 or older, homebound, and unable to prepare a nutritious meal, with no one else able or willing to prepare the meal for them.
Cuts in funding in recent years have resulted in seniors who need Meals on Wheels services being placed on a waiting list. The cost to provide Meals on Wheels to one senior five days a week for one year is $1643.
The LOA is a non-profit organization which receives funding from a variety of sources, but depends heavily on donations from the community. Their goal is to continue the daily meal delivery “so no senior goes hungry.”
Abell has family ties to Vinton. His father graduated from the old William Byrd on the hill with the class of 1934. Abell himself grew up mainly in Roanoke County and graduated from Northside High School, but he has been a lifelong member of Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church in Vinton. Part of his job entails conducting seminars across the region on updates to Medicare and scams affecting seniors. He says that occasionally a church member will sit down beside him on the pew and ask questions about Medicare or other senior concerns.
Abell went on to graduate from Virginia Tech with a degree in insurance. His mother had been a long time employee of Allstate, so he decided to enter the field as well. In 1984 he applied for an opening with the LOA and has been there for 32 years.
By 1988 the agency realized there was a need for Medicare counselors; his insurance background made him a natural fit for the position. His job has continued to evolve over the years.
In addition to Meals on Wheels, the LOA provides an extensive array of services to seniors. They sponsor Diners Clubs for seniors in Roanoke and Salem who are able to leave their homes to socialize at a lunch together in the community. As funds allow, they provide cab services to transport seniors to appointments, and fans and air conditioners to help their cool homes. They assist in providing wheelchairs, walkers, and canes .They maintain a small food bank at the LOA for emergencies.
Seniors who qualify can even obtain free legal assistance through the LOA in preparing simple wills, and Power of Attorney and Medical Directive documents.
The LOA provides VICAP (Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program) counseling to answer questions about Medicare, Medigap insurance, long term insurance, and medical bills. They provide speakers at no charge along with information and referrals, to name just a few of their services.
As for the “Let’s Do Lunch” fundraiser—it has been around for 26 years, initially known as “Lunch on the Lawn” held under tents. The event is the main fundraiser for Meals on Wheels.
The menu this year includes a gourmet deli sandwich (ham, turkey, provolone, and cheddar), Italian Pasta Salad, fresh fruit, chips, bottled water, and a sweet treat from the Hotel Roanoke.
There are dine-in, curbside take-out, and delivery options.
Tickets are $15 and the proceeds will provide two hot meals for a homebound senior. Only 2700 tickets are available and generally sell out quickly—especially the dine-in option.
Ten dollars of the ticket price is tax deductible. Donations are welcome from those who cannot attend or order out.
“Let’s Do Lunch” also includes a 50/50 cash raffle and a raffle for over seventy prizes ranging from a signed P. Buckley Moss painting to Red Sox tickets, business and restaurant gift cards, a cruise on the Virginia Dare, rounds of golf at several local courses, pet grooming certificates, and much more. One dollar buys one chance in a drawing for each prize selected.
In addition to buying tickets or making donations, Abell says that the Meals on Wheels program is always in need of volunteers, who may set their own schedules as to times and days of the week, location, and length of the route. All deliveries are made by volunteers.
“We got a route,” jokes Abell.
Many volunteers are retired; some work as couples; others deliver during their work lunch hours.
In Vinton, volunteers pick up the meals to be delivered at Vinton Baptist Church from Marye Brooks, the SE/Vinton Meals on Wheels site supervisor.
Delivering Meals on Wheels does not just provide nutrition for seniors; the service also provides an opportunity for companionship for seniors and a well-being check. Abell says that lives have been saved by Meals on Wheels volunteers with their visits.
There is continual turnover in the list of those receiving meals with hospitalizations, moves to nursing homes or assisted living, or in with family members, but there is always someone else ready to take their place in the program. Even with the most supportive families, it is often very difficult for a caregiver to leave work in the middle of the day to prepare a meal for a loved one and not suffer job consequences.
The LOA partners with the SPCA to provide food for the pets of Meals on Wheels recipients who are often their best, and maybe only friends. The LOA buys the Ziploc bags and provides the transportation; the SPCA provides the pet food.
Brooks says that supplying pet food is a “very necessary program; some will go hungry to feed a pet.”
LOA and Meals on Wheels also facilitates the Soup for Seniors drive each year. They provide shelf staples in case of bad weather.
The deadline for ordering lunches for dine-in or take out is June 10.
The deadline to request local delivery of lunches is June 3. Local businesses in Vinton such as PFG, Grand Storage, and the offices of Dick Cranwell have requested lunches delivered for employees in past years.
Abell says he is grateful to the community for their support of the fundraiser and the Meals on Wheels program. Many contribute to the success of the lunch in ways big and small, for instance, WDBJ-7 is producing free PSA’s in the coming weeks to publicize the event.
He emphasizes the importance of continuing Meals on Wheels and other LOA programs in a world where the senior population is rapidly increasing with the aging of Baby Boomers.