Cabarrus Meals on Wheels: Nutrition is Their MissionNov 26, 2014 10:12AM ● By Jason Huddle
Gabrielle Goins Is one of the 325 Cabarrus seniors that receives meals from Cabarrus Meals on Wheels.
Imagine being hungry every day, unable to provide for oneself because of age, oftentimes combined with physical disability. For one out of seven seniors in Cabarrus County, this is a reality.
Cabarrus Meals on Wheels is an answer to many people’s prayers. Founded in 1974 and located on South Main Street in Kannapolis, it delivers one hot, healthy meal (lunch) each day to those confined to their home, physically unable to drive and with no one else to care for them. It also provides meals on a temporary basis to those recovering at home after being in the hospital.
Bonnie Jones is development director for Cabarrus Meals on Wheels and has had a busy few months commemorating the charity’s 40th anniversary. “We began our 40-day countdown to our event in August (the 11th Annual Soup Sampling in September). Each day we used our website and social media to reflect on the 40 years by posting archived articles, pictures and quotes from over the years. We hoped this would bring more community awareness to the program, as well as the amazing growth in the program since its inception in 1974.”
Manned with four volunteer drivers serving eight clients, the first meals were delivered in Cabarrus County on February 3, 1975. Over the years, food has been prepared by Cabarrus County Schools, Cabarrus Nursing Center, Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast and independent caterers before it went in-house in 2009. Clients pay for their meals based on financial ability, more than 80 percent paying less than half-price. The fees collected, plus donations, grants and the United Way cover the cost of the food.
The 1970s saw 34 Cabarrus Meals on Wheels volunteers serving up to 16 meals daily in Concord, Kannapolis and Mt. Pleasant. By 1990, Harrisburg had been added and the number of clients had reached 225. The charity delivered its one-millionth meal in November 2008 and had 30 routes across the county by 2011. Today, an average of 400 seniors receive meals; as of this writing, the number was 325.
One of those 325 is Gabrielle Goins, 87 and a Kannapolis resident. Recently widowed and in poor health, she lives on a meager income. “It is difficult to cook or prepare meals. I am homebound and sometimes it is difficult to have enough food in my home,” she says.
Goins has been receiving a daily meal for six months, as well as frozen weekend meals, emergency food bags, even a birthday cake and card.
Another important benefit of meal delivery is companionship. Oftentimes, clients see no one but their Meals on Wheels driver. With advancements in medical technology, life expectancies are longer and the American population is aging. Thus, these seniors are now living at home longer– often alone – and potential loneliness has an impact on their health.
According to research done by the University of Chicago, “This isolation is having a serious effect on both mental and physical health. At any given time, between 20 and 40 percent of older adults feel lonely, particularly during retirement.”
According to healthline.com, one study documented 2,000-plus individuals over 50 for a six-year period. “Compared with the average person in the study, those who reported being lonely had a 14 percent greater risk of dying. Poverty increased the risk of an early death by 19 percent.” Other ramifications include higher blood pressure.
But there’s another, non-human, factor in aiding our elderly population. Some 60 percent of Cabarrus’ seniors receiving meals own a pet. The Meals on Wheels Pet Food Program aims to keep these clients from feeding their pets their own meal because they’re financially unable to provide dog or cat food. So as part of its request for donations, the charity gladly accepts pet food. These contributions enable seniors to keep their companion animals, an often-vital component of their lives.
With Cabarrus Meals on Wheels being a nonprofit, volunteers are the lifeblood. They drive their own vehicles on their routes from about 10:30am to 1:00pm daily. Delivery areas include Concord, Kannapolis, Mt. Pleasant, Midland and Harrisburg. Those who are thinking of becoming volunteers can fill out a profile sheet available on the charity’s website. An interview and training would then follow.
“The volunteers are wonderful…very nice and polite, and just make my day better! I look forward to seeing them,” Goins says. “It gives me peace of mind knowing someone will come to my door and bring a good, nutritious meal to me every day. I don’t have to worry about food. Meals on Wheels helps me to feel better and keeps my diabetes regulated.”
Now is a good time to step up and give these seniors a brighter holiday. Cabarrus Meals on Wheels invites everyone to participate in various fundraisers aimed at doing just that.
“Cabarrus Santa on Wheels is a program that we offer for our clients in need at Christmas time,” Jones explains. “It’s similar to the Angel Tree project. Individuals choose a name from a tree at our office and provide our clients with holiday gifts. Each holiday season our recipients look forward to receiving a gift; many do not have family to celebrate with and a small gift brings them so much joy.”
The Holiday Card fundraiser is another. “Each holiday season we ask the community to participate in our holiday gift card project by making a donation to honor a family member, business associate or a friend,” Jones says. “For a contribution of at least $25 per card, Cabarrus Meals on Wheels will send a personalized card acknowledging your gift made in their honor.” She emphasizes that $25 feeds a Meals on Wheels client for a week.
And a fundraiser coming in 2015 is the Cabarrus Ducktona Dash. Held at Frank Liske Park on June 6, 2015, this family event sees more than 2,000 rubber ducks racing for donations; it typically brings in more than $30,000 each year. Look for more details after January 1 at www.cabarrusmow.org or www.ducktonadash.com.
“We have served over 1.5 million meals to-date in Cabarrus County alone. Last year, over 120,000 meals were served. The need is there and growing because we will always have an aging population that needs us,” Jones says. “We are celebrating 40 years of keeping people alive, restoring their health with a daily nutritious meal and teaching our community what it truly means to be a part of the circle of life. It could be me or you needing this service in the future.”