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Forty years of feeding the hungry

— The worldwide oil crisis lingered. Lee Alexander was still mayor of Syracuse, John Mulroy was still Onondaga County executive, and Richard Nixon was still president of the United States. The year was 1974, and Bob and Linda Jackson embarked on a mission of community service which they continue to this day.

The kindly couple, who live on Ridgecrest Drive in North Syracuse, have been volunteering for 40 years now for North Area Meals on Wheels (NAMOW).

“It was started by a faith-based group of people doing good deeds,” Linda said, “and we started cooking in our home kitchen. Our minister was part of the North Area Pastor’s Association, and he knew of a few people in need of help, people who could only remain in their homes if they could have food delivered.”

Linda began by cooking meals for three people who were homebound members of her church. The food was picked up and delivered by others. By 1976 there were 16 clients, and the volunteers had outgrown their kitchen space and supplies.

Several folks from various North Syracuse churches coordinated cooks and drivers, planned menus, shopped for groceries and kept things organized. The North Area Council of Churches was formed and took Meals on Wheels under its wing. A board of directors was formed.

CROP Walk roots

The service was largely funded by the CROP Walks run by the Christian Rural Overseas Program which had been established in 1947 to help feed war-torn Europe. In 1977 Meals on Wheels withdrew from the council of churches and became formally incorporated, but the CROP Walk program still gives money to NAMOW today.

Over the years the North Area kitchen has moved several times due to increased demand. Linda served on the board of directors for several years.

“This organization has been fortunate to have retirees looking to stay involved in their community who joined our board,” Linda remembered. Luckily, she said, “Many were business people who still had contacts and knew how to raise money.”

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