Annual Miles for Meals walk to raise money for Seniors

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Longtime Meals on Wheels volunteer Pat Robinson of McDonough has helped to deliver food to seniors locally for about 20 years. The reason she wanted to do it, she said, lies in a desire to serve community, and senior residents in particular.

“I love older people, and I think I understand their needs,” said Robinson. “It just seemed like a good fit.”

L. to r.: Diane Reed, Director of Henry County Senior Services, staff members, Katie McAvoy and Kathy Smith and Lynn Whit, Case Managers for Henry County Senior Services at the 2016 Miles for Meals Walk. File photo

The Henry County Council on Aging will hold the 23rd annual Miles for Meals Walk on Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m., until noon, to raise money for Meals on Wheels. Registration will begin at 9 a.m., and the walk will take place at the Jason T. Harper Event Center, at 95 Lake Dow Road in McDonough.

Robinson delivers about 14 meals to seniors every other week. She said her favorite aspect of volunteering for Meals on Wheels is the opportunity to interact with clients of the program.

“They’re mostly seniors, but there have been a few that are homebound or incapacitated that are younger,” explained Robinson. “One of the aspects of the visit is to check on them and to make sure they’re OK. If someone doesn’t answer the door, I’ll call the number. If I don’t get an answer, then I’ll call the Center and make sure everything’s OK. I enjoy the visits with them, and they seem to enjoy the visits as well. Some of the clients, I’ve had since my very first time delivering meals. They’ve been with me for 20 years, so I’ve gotten to know them really well.”

The walk is part of Older Americans Month. The event helps to raise funds to provide services to senior adults living in Henry County, said Senior Services Director Diane Reed.

“I would say it primarily funds the Meals on Wheels program,” she said, adding that the program currently serves 180 clients. “We do have a waiting list, but we’re able to pull people off, usually, within 45 days for the home-delivered meals.”

Last year’s Miles for Meals Walk raised nearly $35,000 to support Meals on Wheels, with about 100 people walking in the event. Reed acknowledged that recent years have seen a decrease in the number of participants for the walk, because other events in the community are often held on the same day.

Still, she maintained that some individuals and groups have been consistent in their support for the endeavor.

“We have a couple of churches that are faithful every year,” said Reed. “Mount Zion United Methodist Church and Wesley Way United Methodist Church are two big groups that support us. We count on it to not have to reduce the number of clients that we serve. We also get sponsors for the walk, and we have a lot of people who help support it. Many of them are seniors. A lot of them either participate in the senior centers or are volunteers, so it’s near and dear to their heart.”

Reed noted that many of her clients are aware of the walk, as well as those who regularly take part in it each year.

“They have expressed their appreciation for people who participate in the walk to help support their program,” she said.

Reed said anyone who wants to participate in the walk is welcome to do so. Participants must raise at least $25 to be eligible for a commemorative T-shirt and to have their names entered in a drawing for door prizes at the event, she said.

Former Henry County Tax Commissioner Andy Pipkin has been delivering since the earliest days of the program. Like Robinson, Pipkin said the program enables him to serve older people in the community.

“I just believe in serving, period,” he said. “I just thought it would be a good avenue to serve in, and it has been. A lot of them don’t see anybody else during the day except for the Meals on Wheels volunteers.”

Pipkin also noted that the county’s population growth has resulted in him having more people on his delivery route than in years past. He said his encounters with Meals on Wheels clients over the years has allowed him meet their needs in other ways beyond delivering meals.

“I’ve had the opportunity to help them screw in light bulbs, go to the store for them, visit them in the hospital ... it’s just been a tremendous opportunity to serve people,” said Pipkin. “That blessing has been at least as great for me as it has for them.”

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