Originally Published: March 25, 2008 12:05 p.m.
Nationwide throughout March, Meals on Wheels volunteers and staff celebrate the month-long March for Meals volunteer campaign. Yavapai County Meals on Wheels dedicated March 18 to the campaign.
"Our motto is 'no senior goes hungry,' and we at Mayer Meals on Wheels are not going to let anyone go hungry if we can help it," Nancy Lang, Mayer Meals on Wheels director, said during March for Meals day. "It used to be called 'Mayors for Meals' and the mayor of a town would help deliver meals for one day in March.
"But since a lot of rural communities don't have a mayor, we would get some prominent person to fill-in as mayor. And now the campaign is called March for Meals."
Bank of the West-Mayer branch manager Earleen Mathern acted as surrogate mayor and helped deliver meals on the Spring Valley route.
"This is my third year and I do it because I want to give something back to the community," Mathern said. "But Meals on Wheels is all about the volunteers and the staff that prepare and deliver the meals all year long. This is just one day out of the year."
Dist. 2 Supervisor Tom Thurman was the guest dignitary in Black Canyon City. He delivered Easter baskets along with the meals. Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Anthem donated the baskets.
"The church made these really nice Easter baskets and the folks we visited were overjoyed to receive them," he said. "Those baskets made their day.
"This is my third year delivering for the Meals on Wheels March campaign, and I'm happy to say that some of the folks I've delivered to in the past look better now than they did the first time I saw them."
Courtesy of Bank of the West in Mayer, each year Mathern donates $500 each to Mayer and Black Canyon City Meals on Wheels.
"We survive on donations," Lang said. "The local businesses and individuals around here really pitch in and help us a lot. Like everything else in the country, the cost of food is really going up and it is hurting us.
"We spend more money on the same amount of food each month and I can't even give the staff the raises that they really deserve."
A typical morning has Mayer's Meals on Wheels cooks Virginia Fazzino, Camille Schultz and Cat Miller preparing about 100 hot meals. About half of those are delivered to homebound clients and the other half are served in the congregate dining room.
"The Mayer Elders Club owns this building, but we prepare and serve the Meals on Wheels here," Lang said. "If it wasn't for the Elders Club, I don't know where we would go or how we would keep Meals on Wheels."
The Elders Club and Meals on Wheels operate separately but in harmony with each other. They each have their own budgets, fund-raisers and expenses.
"We are like two separate families living under one roof," Lang said.
For the first time during March for Meals, Mayer Fire Department employees helped deliver meals.
"You two ride in the truck with us," Mayer firefighter Nick Knowlton told Cathy Hanks and her 10-year-old daughter, Katy. Cathy has volunteered for Meals on Wheels for the past three years. Katy is on her first delivery trip.
"It's people like this that make it possible for us to feed the seniors," Lang said.
Mayer Meals on Wheels delivers hot lunches from Dewey-Humboldt to Cordes Lakes. Frozen platters are delivered to homebound clients for weekends.
"Our homebound clients are referred to us by Catholic Social Services," volunteer driver Jackie Haggerty said. Haggerty has volunteered for the past 8 years. "Some can pay for the meals and some can't."
Congregate diners are asked for a $3.50 donation for each meal, Lang said.
"But the donations never cover the cost because I'm almost always operating in the red," she said. "The balance is covered by donations and fund-raisers and grants.
"Some congregate diners simply can't afford the $3.50 and they put whatever they can in the donation can. The can is always full of pennies and nickels.
"But I'll tell you what - on a budget like ours every penny counts. Every single cent that someone gives us helps feed a senior."