Local elected officials deliver food to homebound elderly
By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Tim Darr was one of seven mayors who boarded mini-buses Wednesday to deliver food to the homebound elderly as part of a national effort to draw attention to hunger among seniors.
In doing so they also sought to encourage more support in their communities for nonprofit agencies seeking to recruit volunteers and raise money to help provide food for needy seniors.
Darr was clearly enjoying himself as the mini-bus rolled through the streets of apartment complexes, subdivisions and trailer parks delivering hot meals to about a dozen clients of the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging. The SAAA runs the Meals on Wheels program in Warren, Page, Shenandoah, Clarke and Frederick counties and Winchester.
This was Darr's second year participating in the March for Meals campaign, an experience he said he regards as one of the more gratifying parts of his job.
Darr praised the SAAA and Meals on Wheels volunteers for helping sustain the spirits as well as the bodies of its clients along the route.
"We have a lot of elderly people who don't have anyone," he said. "It's not just the meals they deliver. They develop personal relationships with everyone."
Darr's mayoral counterparts elsewhere in the Northern Shenandoah Valley joined him on routes in their communities. The participants included: William Kirby of Berryville, Timothy Taylor of Strasburg, Barry Presgraves of Luray, Joseph Williams of Mount Jackson, Larry Smith of New Market and Phil Fauber of Toms Brook.
Janet Hochman, 74, a resident of the Shenandoah Commons apartment complex, described the Meals on Wheels program as making an enormous difference for someone like herself with several disabilities that severely limit her mobility.
Hochman suffers from a bad back, COPD and heart problems. She greeted Darr from a lounger where she sat covered in a blanket watching television. An oxygen tank, walker and cane stood nearby.
Despite her afflictions, she appears much younger than 74, something she cheerfully attributed to "being the party person in my family. That kept me young."
She gratefully accepted the plastic tray filled with chicken and rice casserole, seasoned greens, carrots and fruits that Darr handed to her.
"The meals are delicious," Hochman said. "They've helped me gain weight."
Ready-to-eat food makes life easier "because I don't stand more than a few minutes at a time. If I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water, it's all I can do to get back here," she said.
The SAAA conducted this year's March for Meals campaign in the shadow of a lingering financial crisis that has dogged the agency since last September when the board of directors dismissed its top three executives. Lawsuits, investigations into possible criminal wrongdoing, and pay cuts for managers and staff in the central office have followed amid uncertainty over the agency's future.
By the end of his two-hour travels delivering meals, Darr had no doubt about SAAA's ability to survive and the worth of its mission.
"They'll take their blows, and they'll come back strong when people realize what a good thing they do," he said.