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Meals on Wheels calling for donations

John Holladay always arrives at the Suffolk Meals on Wheels office before most other volunteers.

Holladay drives the Isle of Wight route for the organization, taking nutritious food and beverages to residents as far away as Bacon’s Castle. Because his route is so long, he gets to use the specialized van — a brightly painted vehicle with hot and cold compartments in the back to keep the food as fresh as possible.

Holladay is just one of hundreds of people making the wheels turn at Suffolk Meals on Wheels. For 22 years, the organization has been delivering meals to seniors and disabled people who are unable to prepare their own food, enabling them to stay in their homes longer.

“It’s a small contribution,” said Mark McTague, who has driven meals around the city for five years. “But it’s something.”

To the people who receive the meals, however, it is so much more than that. Not only do the volunteers bring two meals each weekday complete with a salad, rolls, desserts and a beverage, but the volunteer sometimes is the recipient’s only link to the outside world.

“Most of the time, John might be the only person they see all day long,” said Roseland Worrell, executive director of the program.

Knowing their loved one is receiving Meals on Wheels also gives caretakers a break and extraordinary peace of mind, Worrell said. Volunteers get to know their recipients well, and can often spot when there is a problem right away.

The meals are prepared and boxed by the Sentara Obici Hospital food service department. Meals can be specialized for different diet requirements, such as low sodium or diabetic. The Suffolk Meals on Wheels office also is located deep in the hospital, near the rear employee entrance. Volunteers come to the rear entrance to pick up their meals in bright yellow coolers, then deliver their routes and return the coolers to the office. Some routes have upwards of 20 deliveries. Other routes require a 62-mile round trip. But the volunteers — everyone from retired teachers to young professionals — never fail to show, Worrell said.

People can sign up to receive meals on a short-term or long-term basis. Most recipients pay $5 each day for the meals.

“It’s cheaper than a Happy Meal,” Worrell said.

Some people, however, cannot afford to pay. Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia helps supplement the costs of those meals, but food costs are constantly rising and office supplies also are not getting any cheaper.

That is why Suffolk Meals on Wheels is conducting its annual “March for Meals” fundraising campaign. It is the only time Suffolk Meals on Wheels asks for support from the community throughout the year.

To help Meals on Wheels recipients continue to get nutritious food and friendly visits at low cost, send a check made payable to Suffolk Meals on Wheels, Inc. to Suffolk Meals on Wheels, Inc., 2800 Godwin Blvd., Suffolk, VA 23434. To contact the Suffolk Meals on Wheels office, call 934-4911.