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Mobile Meals honoring supporters in Year of Volunteer

2/27/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Mobile Meals Inc. volunteers Carolyn and Frank Rucker are shown delivering a hot meal to one of Mobile Meals’ clients, Sylvia Phillips, of Copley, at center.
Photo: Maria Lindsay
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Mobile Meals Inc. officials realize that behind every gift is a giver, and in celebration of and appreciation for the organization’s volunteers and supporters, they have proclaimed 2014 as the Year of the Volunteer.

The organization is a nonprofit agency founded in 1971 that relies on more than 200 volunteers to deliver 2,500 hot and frozen meals and nutritional supplements daily in a five-county area that includes Summit, Medina, Cuyahoga, Lorain and Portage counties, according to Phil Marcin, development director for the agency.

Mobile Meals also serves hot meals in eight dining centers located throughout its service area, offers grocery shopping for the homebound and offers nutrition education counseling, he said.

According to Marcin, last year 3,656 clients ranging in age from 4 months to 108 years received 660,525 meals and supplements. The clients come from referrals from family, friends, doctors, area agencies, hospitals and other health care providers.

“The clients represent some of the most frail and financially challenged in the community, with multiple limitations and nutritional needs,” said Marcin. “We could not offer them a friendly hello or a daily check-in without the dedication and commitment of these many volunteers.

“We consider volunteers to be our ‘ambassadors of hope’ for our clients,” he added. “Their gifts of time, talent and commitment bring warmth, love and delicious meals all year long. We want to say thank you in a big way in 2014 and let our volunteers know how much they are appreciated throughout the year.”

To honor and recognize its volunteers and supporters, Mobile Meals officials are organizing gatherings where volunteers can get acquainted and share stories about their efforts. The first of them will take place in April, with a specific date yet to be established.

In addition, a page dedicated to volunteer communications has been established on the website mobilemealsinc.org so volunteers can stay connected and receive timely updates.

Marcin said these activities are meant to show volunteers the agency appreciates their gift of time on behalf of Mobile Meals clients.

“Volunteers save us money,” said Marcin. “One driver doing three routes for one year saves us $10,000. That is a big help, and it allows us to provide more services to more people.”

The husband-and-wife volunteer team of Frank and Carolyn Rucker, of Wadsworth, said there are many reasons to donate time to Mobile Meals.

The Ruckers moved back to the area from Oklahoma about one year ago to be near their children and have been volunteering together at Mobile Meals for about nine months.

“I like to do something and being able to help someone,” said Frank Rucker, who is a retired car dealer. “I really enjoy meeting, greeting and talking to the people we help.”

Carolyn Rucker, who is a social worker, rides along with her husband to make meal deliveries. “If you want to feel good about helping someone, this is it,” she said. “Helping out gives you a joyous feeling. Even though it is just a little thing, it makes a difference.”

One of their deliveries Feb. 14 was to Copley resident Sylvia Phillips, who will be 102 April 4.

During conversations, it was discovered Phillips was among the agency’s first volunteers when it began in 1971.

Phillips said she enjoys talking to volunteers and the hot meals they provide.

“They are so nice,” she said.

Marcin said volunteers like the Ruckers not only help to nourish clients such as Phillips, but they also help nurture them through conversation, which is important because many of the clients are no longer able to get out much on their own and socialize.

Cheryl Bunch, volunteer coordinator, said Mobile Meals has a number of “wonderful, good, caring and compassionate” volunteers like the Ruckers.

“Even during the bad weather recently, we had very few people call off,” she said.

Bunch said the organization has volunteer opportunities for individuals, businesses and their employees, stay-at-home moms and retirees. The agency has a total of 45 routes. People can volunteer once a month or once a week. Taking on one route involves between 10 and 15 clients, which takes about one-and-a-half hours, she said. Donations are also accepted.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call 330-376-7717 or visit the website.

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