Alexandria recipients of Meals on Wheels got a surprise visit from Mayor William D. Euille and Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper last Wednesday. They were delivering the meals.
It was all part of a national "MAYORS for MEALS" event of the Meals on Wheels Association of America to promote and increase awareness for the program that provides daily meals to housebound seniors. March is "Meals on Wheels Month."
"This is an extremely worthwhile program and I'm very happy to be able to participate. It's not my first time," said Pepper as she climbed into the SUV of her driver, a regular Meals on Wheels volunteer, Suzanne Kalvaitis.
Euille described his experience participating in the program as a "real eye opener" in learning about the living conditions and needs of many seniors. "I'm very grateful that this program, with all the volunteers that give of their time, is so effective in addressing the needs of these vulnerable seniors," he said.
Operated under the aegis of Senior Services of Alexandria, the local program delivers over 54,000 meals annually, Monday through Friday, according to Eileen Longstreet, executive director, Senior Services. Last Wednesday Euille and Pepper delivered meals to approximately 13 recipients each.
Alexandria's Office of Aging and Adult Services subsidizes the cost of the meals for very low income seniors. Other seniors pay for part of their meals. Senior Services' various fundraising ventures and funded grants cover other costs of the program, according to Brenda Walls, Senior Services of Alexandria's manager of the program.
The unmet need for meals in Virginia includes over 7,500 seniors who are on wait lists. Poor nutrition among seniors, exacerbated by lack of personal income, depression and isolation, is a leading cause of their decline in health. This can lead to hospitalization and eventual nursing home admission, according to MOWAA.
Each weekday morning, at approximately 10:30 a.m., a separate set of volunteers load their vehicles with hot and cold meals and embark on a two hour jaunt from the parking lot of Beth El Hebrew Congregation, 3830 Seminary Road. Traveling in pairs, one serving as driver and the other as delivery person, they are provided with
a detailed delivery route to minimize the time needed to accomplish their mission of mercy and well being.