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Mayors set example by delivering hot meals to seniors

4/4/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Fairlawn residents Cecil and Betty Miller received a hot meal March 20, delivered by Fairlawn Mayor William Roth as part of Mobile Meals’ Mayors for Meals week.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic delivered a meal to the home of 91-year-old Kenmore resident Louise Hooper March 20 during Mayors for Meals week.
Photos courtesy of Mobile Meals Inc.
GREATER AKRON — If nearly a dozen area mayors can take time out of their busy schedules to deliver hot meals to senior citizens, hopefully others will be inspired to do the same, said Mobile Meals President and CEO Lorie Travaglino.

During Mayors for Meals Week, held March 18-22, more local mayors than ever volunteered to show their support for homebound and hungry seniors in the area by making deliveries to their constituents, she said.

The goal is to bring awareness to senior hunger, she said.

“Ohio ranks 15th in the country for seniors that are at risk for hunger,” she added. “Personally, I don’t think that’s acceptable.”

A pleasant side effect of Mayors for Meals Week, though, is that it offered the opportunity for some seniors to bend the ears of their mayors, she said.

In Akron, Mayor Don Plusquellic delivered a meal to 91-year-old Kenmore resident Louise Hooper March 20. On the same day, Fairlawn Mayor William Roth took a meal to Cecil and Betty Miller.

Roth said he enjoyed his visit with the Millers, who are longtime residents of Fairlawn and remain active in the community.

Though Roth said he had known of Mobile Meals for years through guardianship work, he was impressed with the organization’s “smooth” operations. The meals he delivered were hot and ready to go, and the food looked good, he said.

The organization is “definitely something that deserves our support and an asset in our community,” he added.

The week also included meal deliveries by Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart and Norton Mayor Mike Zita. Other Northeast Ohio mayors’ participating cities included Barberton, Bedford, Green, Kent, Medina, Ravenna, Stow and Twinsburg.

According to organization officials, normally one of Mobile Meals’ 69 staff members or around 200 volunteers make sure more than 2,500 meals and supplements are delivered to the homes of children, the disabled and the elderly each day, to residents in Summit County, as well as Medina, Portage, Cuyahoga and Lorain counties.

Mobile Meals has served Northeast Ohio for 42 years, providing meals and nutrition services to individuals of all ages who are at nutritional risk. However, the agency could use closer to 1,000 volunteers, said Travaglino. That need amounts to 792 volunteer hours of driving a month, she said.

Every year, Mobile Meals experiences budget cuts that come through the federal budget, according to Travaglino. She said since the beginning of March, when Congress made the decision to sequester, Mobile Meals stands to lose about $12,000 that were direct dollars to seniors.

Though the most recent cuts have not impacted Mobile Meals’ services, the organization did have to make some changes last year, said Travaglino.

“We continue to be efficient with our dollars — we are more efficient that we’ve ever been,” she added.

A hot meal almost doubles in cost because of the delivery cost associated with it, she noted.

“This agency needs people to say, ‘If my mayor can deliver a meal, I can deliver a meal to someone,’” she said.

Those interested in volunteering to deliver meals need to provide their own gas and vehicles. Mobile Meals will do their best to accommodate volunteers’ schedules and set them up to deliver meals in their area, she said. Some training and security checks are needed before volunteers can get going, she added.

“It just really provides a meaningful volunteer experience,” she said. “So often when someone goes to volunteer, they don’t get a people connection,” but delivering meals for Mobile Meals offers the opportunity to touch someone’s life directly, she said.

Also, in the past volunteers were only needed Mondays through Fridays, but now some Saturday volunteer hours have opened up, so families can go together, said Travaglino.

For more on volunteer opportunities, contact Laura Purdy at 330-376-7717. For more on the organization, also visit www.mobilemealsinc.org.

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