By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 3/21/19
HARRISONBURG — Wayne Harold has been regularly volunteering with Meals on Wheels for six years, and is usually joined by Zeke, his chocolate lab.
But on Wednesday, his delivery team member was his son, Josh, the taproom manager of Brothers Craft Brewing in Harrisonburg.
Over a dozen “Community Champions,” or community leaders, helped deliver food for the local Meals on Wheels program run by the Valley Program for Aging Services.
The “champions” were organized into six teams and delivered food over an hour starting at 10 a.m. More “champions” will deliver food on March 29.
The Community Champions Day is part of the 17th annual March for Meals event, which commemorates the day in March 1972 when a national nutrition program for seniors was established by President Richard Nixon.
“The whole purpose of the March for Meals is to bring awareness for senior hunger and social isolation,” said Beth Bland, director of development for Valley Program for Aging Services.
VPAS is a nonprofit agency that helps those over the age of 60 by offering a variety of programs, including Meals on Wheels, transportation options and insurance counseling, she said.
In addition to Community Champions Day this week, Brothers Craft Brewing’s monthly Cask for a Cause fundraiser last week raised $1,108 for VPAS, Bland said.
“We try to make a big splash of it so many people around the community are aware of the Meals on Wheels and to draw community support for the program,” Bland said.
Recipients of the Meals on Wheels service must be homebound and not have the ability or resources to prepare or purchase food or a support system to do those things for them.
One recipient is Rosa Solis, 67, who relocated to Harrisonburg from Los Angeles nine months ago. Soon after arriving, she got enrolled in Meals on Wheels after finding out about the program from a friend.
“I never received this in L.A.,” she said. “I look forward every day to Meals on Wheels.”
Solis lives at her son’s house, but he works long hours, leaving the house at 5 a.m. and often not returning until after 10 p.m., she said.
Solis’ granddaughter also occasionally cares for her, but the family prioritizes her education and extracurricular activities.
“We want to see her go to college,” she said. “We want the best for her.”
Recent years have presented health challenges to Solis, including an extended coma. Now, she still occasionally has trouble going up the stairs at home.
The team that brought Solis’ meal consisted of Jim Britt of Harrisonburg Radio Group, Thomas Rea of Bank of the James, Deanna Reed, the mayor of Harrisonburg, and Tom Mendez of McGriff Insurance Service. When the Meals on Wheels Champion team arrived, Solis spoke with them about her family’s indigenous Mexican heritage and how much she loves the Harrisonburg area.
Wednesday’s meal was salads and hot vegetables, and Solis remarked about her love of vegetables, as well as how she is adjusting to new cuisine after moving from the West Coast to the Shenandoah Valley. Last year, the local Meals on Wheels program delivered 39,000 meals to recipients like Solis. More than 224 million meals are delivered to 2.4 million seniors every year, according to the national Meals on Wheels website The service is not only important for bringing food to recipients, but it also allows for social interaction, sometimes the only interaction recipients will receive that day, Bland said.
“Without our volunteers,” Bland said, “we couldn’t make this happen.”