About two dozen local officials, business owners and other community leaders donned aprons and lent their vehicles to help serve meals to seniors at North Area Meals on Wheels (NAMOW) last Wednesday as part of March for Meals. The month-long effort aims to raise awareness of the mission of Meals on Wheels, while the one-day endeavor formerly known as Mayors for Meals invites leaders in the area to participate in the day-to-day activities of Meals on Wheels to give them a look at what goes on behind the scenes at the organization.
“It sort of evolved from Mayors for Meals to March for Meals, because we only have two mayors, so it makes it easier if we invite local leaders in our community,” said Donna Barrett, executive director of NAMOW. “So we have business folks as well as politicians in our community. We have bankers we’ve invited, we have a jeweler, and then we have our local town of Salina, town of Clay and town of Cicero and the villages of North Syracuse and Liverpool.”
Barrett said March for Meals, which this year coincides with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Meals on Wheels, hopes to increase community consciousness of the mission of the nonprofit while also making town and county leaders aware of the conditions in which many seniors live.
“We do this to raise awareness throughout the community and to expose our folks, our leaders, to what we do every day,” she said. “We want them to get a glimpse of the conditions of the homes and the greater need, the resources that we should have for the Meals on Wheels seniors.”
Volunteer Dan Welch of Welch & Co. Jewelers in North Syracuse, who helped prepare meals for delivery at NAMOW, said he signed up to help out because he believes the services the organization provides are vital to the community.
“I have elderly parents, and I’ve seen the good that these guys do,” Welch said. “It’s very important to get the food to the seniors. Many of them can’t get out, and if they don’t get it delivered, and if they can’t afford to call and have a restaurant delivered, this is the only way they’ll get their nutrition for the day. Otherwise, the alternative is they just don’t eat.”
Welch said he was very impressed with the regular volunteers at NAMOW.
“It’s extremely organized, and their volunteers are extremely dedicated to what they do,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to see that. It’s nice to see them so into it and so concerned with the quality of what they’re putting out.”
Welch encouraged others to sign up to help out, even if they couldn’t make a regular commitment.
“I think one of the important things to realize is that if you want to volunteer, it doesn’t have to be daily,” he said. “You can come in once a week for two hours, whatever fits into your schedule, whatever you can physically do. That’s something I didn’t realize. If you can’t make it in on your regular day, that’s okay. Somebody will cover. It’s important just to get involved in whatever level you can.”
Welch said he’d definitely volunteer at NAMOW again.
“Absolutely. It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “There’s a lot of banter while you’re working.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.