Originally Published: April 2, 2014 6 a.m.
The Mad Hatter and his entourage of colorful characters stepped out of Lewis Carroll's classic, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," and threw a tea party at Granite Gate Senior Living Saturday to benefit Prescott Meals on Wheels.
Guests were decked out appropriately in costumes and hats, too, for the fundraiser, which included high tea, a fashion show of vintage and Victorian-era apparel, teacup and hat contests and a silent auction of prizes donated by local businesses.
Prescott Meals on Wheels has been serving the Prescott community since 1973, preparing approximately 67,000 meals each year. The organization is a nonprofit, with no ties to a government agency, is located in the Rowle P. Simmons Community Center at 1280 E. Rosser St. in Prescott.
Prescott Meals on Wheels Executive Director Bert Ijams would like to dispel some misconceptions about the service program.
"The Prescott Meals on Wheels dining room is open to everyone of every age" and not just the elderly, she said.
Every weekday, Prescott Meals on Wheels prepares and serves approximately 165 to 180 meals to homebound seniors and the disabled and anywhere from 70 to 100 meals in its dining room at the community center.
Ijams said a large portion of Meals on Wheels clients are referred to the organization for nutritional support by the Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG) Area on Aging. Prescott Meals on Wheels is currently providing 200 percent more meals than what NACOG is able to reimburse Meals on Wheels for, she said.
"It is our practice to not turn anyone away who is referred to us by NACOG. The difference between the meals NACOG is able to reimburse us for and those they cannot pay us for must be raised through private donations, grants and fundraising events," she said.
Meals are delivered to the homebound and disabled at a cost of $6 per meal. When Meals on Wheels is contacted with a need for meals, it is usually able to begin this service within 24 hours.
The menu for meals served in the dining room is posted at www.PrescottMealsOnWheels.com. Lunch costs $6 for people 59 years of age and younger and a $5 donation for people age 60 and over and is served from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the exception of holidays. Reservations are not necessary.
Volunteers are the backbone of Meals on Wheels, Ijams said, noting that approximately 125 volunteers meet the mission each month to deliver one hot nutritious meal each day to homebound seniors and disabled people.
Ijams reiterated that Prescott Meals on Wheels will "serve anyone of any age who requests food," and added that it is a myth that people "must be indigent to receive services.'
There are two ways to access the service, she said. One is private pay for people who can and choose to pay $6 per delivered meal. The other is through a NACOG Agency Area on Aging referral. These are people who may not be able to pay for the meal themselves.
"Generally speaking, anyone can access our services," Ijams said. "If someone is 29 and just had surgery and needs meals for a couple of days, weeks or months, we can serve them. If there is an elderly person or couple who would like help with a meal for between one and seven days each week, we can serve them and everyone in between."
Of Saturday's "Mad Hatter Tea Party" fundraiser, Ijams said, "Without the support of community partners, such as Granite Gate Senior Living, Prescott Meals on Wheels would not be able to fulfill its mission. We are so grateful."
Granite Gate Senior Living Executive Director Marcia Turner initiated the inaugural event on Saturday.
"This is my forte in life - to do fundraising in the community to give back," because people in the community "give so much to Granite Gate," she said. "My main purpose in life is to share and help others. It has always been my passion to help others through creative ideas," such as Saturday's fest.