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Miles for Meals to celebrate
20th anniversary


By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

  Henry County is preparing to mark two decades of success in raising money to help the local senior population.

  The 20th annual Miles for Meals Walk is coming to Heritage Park in McDonough. It will be May 3 in the Jason T. Harper Event Center as part of Older Americans Month. Registration will kick off at 9 a.m., with the walk beginning at 10 a.m.

Participants at the 2013 Miles for Meals Walk stretch to limber up before the walk. This year’s walk will be held on Saturday, May 3 at 10 a.m.                                    Photo by Nick Vassy

  Funds from the event, sponsored by the Henry County Council on Aging, will benefit programs for senior adults in the county, said Senior Services Director, Diane Reed.

  She said the walk stands out because of its accessibility to the community.

  “Ours is different in that we keep it as an easy one or two mile walk,” said Reed. “The focus is on allowing all levels of ability to participate and show support for the program. We usually have between 250 and 300 people there.”

  Funds raised from the walk come from registration fees, donations, and sales of commemorative T-shirts at the event. Proceeds from the walk provide funds each year for Meals on Wheels as well as in-home services for seniors, nutritional supplements and personal-care products.

  “It’s the longest-running continuous event as far as walks in the county,” said Reed. “The amount that we’ve been able to raise varies from year to year. On average, we hope to raise $50,000 to support our programs.”

  Those programs, she added, include Meals on Wheels and in-home services to help seniors remain independent. Reed said funds from the walk have been instrumental in bringing seniors centers to McDonough, Stock-bridge and Locust Grove.

  Two of those centers were built as part of SPLOST I. Reed said the Council on Aging paid for much of the furnishings and decorations for the centers, as well as sewing machines and other needed supplies that wouldn’t be paid for by the county.

  Reed said economic pressures have made it more difficult, in recent years to provide those services.

  “As Henry County has grown, so has the number of similar fundraisers, all for great causes. They’re also during the same time frame in the early spring, so people have to decide where to put their support.”

  Reed praised the efforts of former Senior Services Director Sandy Craig, and former Volunteer Special Events Coordinator Rita Green, for the roles they played in the walk’s success over the last 20 years.

  “Sandy Craig started the walk,” said Reed. “Rita took the torch and made it grow.”

Craig headed up Senior Services from 1989 to 2008. She orchestrated the first Miles for Meals walk in 1994, at the Henry County High School track.

  “We walked to the Square and back,” said Craig. “In 2002, we moved the walk to Heritage Park. Each year it seemed like it grew and grew. At its peak, we raised around $80,000 a year.”

  She said support for the walk has come from local residents, as well as organizations including First State Bank and Shiloh Baptist Church. The person who consistently raised the most money for the walk, she said, was former Locust Grove Mayor Lorene Lindsey.

  Green oversaw the walk for six years prior to her recent departure from Senior Services. She emphasized that all the monies made at the walk stay in Henry County.

  “It makes a big difference,” said Green. “It gives us what we need to sort of balance it out and get the extras that the seniors can’t afford to get.”

  Green said community involvement has been an essential component in making Senior Services’ efforts successful each year.

  “Everybody’s got moms and dads and uncles and aunts,” she said. “Our seniors are very proud, and a lot of them don’t want to be a burden. Senior Services are there to give them that hand up to help them in some way, or give them a hug when they need it. A lot of them don’t have family there to help them.”

  For more information on the walk, call 770-288-7000.



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