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Published: Wednesday, 1/8/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Food program gets meals out to area seniors

Director felt it necessary to violate order to stay off roads

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Grace Smith of Toledo, right, signs for a delivery of frozen meals and a small bag of ‘shelf stable’ items brought by Justin Ratliff of Toledo. Ms. Smith is receiving the foodstuffs on behalf of her grandparents, Grace Jones, 81, and William Gayton, 82. Grace Smith of Toledo, right, signs for a delivery of frozen meals and a small bag of ‘shelf stable’ items brought by Justin Ratliff of Toledo. Ms. Smith is receiving the foodstuffs on behalf of her grandparents, Grace Jones, 81, and William Gayton, 82.
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Dangerously cold temperatures, the absence of two-thirds of its staff, and orders from law enforcement to stay off roads could not keep a local program from delivering meals to 500 vulnerable seniors who otherwise might not have had food.

The meals were prepared and delivered by employees of the Lyman Liggins Senior Nutrition Program for Lucas County on Tuesday.

Lucas County officials early Tuesday contacted various organizations, including the Liggins nutrition program, and ordered them not to deliver the meals because of dangerous roadway conditions.

JoEllen Hawks, the program’s food-service director, said program officials did not want to violate the orders, but felt it necessary because some seniors might have gone several days without food.

“We wanted to make sure,” Ms. Hawks said. “We don’t know what the rest of the week is going to hold.”

Because of the weather, only a handful of the program’s staff was able to make it to the Margaret Hunt Senior Center, where the meals are prepared.

Chef Mary Bourn, who has been preparing meals for seniors since 1996, arrived for work at 5 a.m. She and other cooks began making meals that included barbecue rib patties, baked beans, and mixed vegetables.

Each senior was also given bags of fruits and vegetables on Tuesday, which usually aren't included.

Once those meals were packed and loaded into delivery trucks, Ms. Bourn began cooking a meal for today, which included pork loin and confetti rice.

Ms. Bourn said she braved the weather to go into work because it’s important to make sure that seniors receive delicious and healthy meals.

“It is a very rewarding job,” agreed Justin Ratliff, one of three drivers who showed up for work on Tuesday. On normal days there are at least eight people who deliver the meals, officials said.

Mr. Ratliff dropped his first boxes of hot food to Grace Jones and William Gayton who live with their granddaughter in a house near the intersection of Batavia Street and Ashland Avenue.

Mary Bourn of Toledo, cooks pork roasts for meals for Wednesday at The Margaret Hunt Senior Center, the site of meal preparation and distribution for area residents in Toledo. Mary Bourn of Toledo, cooks pork roasts for meals for Wednesday at The Margaret Hunt Senior Center, the site of meal preparation and distribution for area residents in Toledo.
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Grace Smith, 44, carried the boxes of food inside the house because her grandmother uses a wheelchair and she didn’t want her father to go outside where he could slip on the ice.

“I’ve been taking care of them for years; but that’s alright,” said Ms. Smith, who works as a nurse’s aide. “As much as they’ve done for me, I couldn’t see putting them in a nursing home. They raised me.”

Ms. Smith added: “We love the senior nutrition program; it’s a positive program for the elderly who can’t get out or have no one to help them, especially in weather like this.”

Jere Lawler, 67, who lives with mother Pearl Lawler, 93, at Parkwood Apartments in Toledo, agrees. Mr. Lawler, who is retired, takes care of his mother who is in frail health.

Mr. Lawler, who is retired, previously delivered food for the same senior nutrition program that is now helping him.

“My mother has been sick,” Mr. Lawler said.

“She has rheumatoid arthritis. ... It causes her a lot of pain.

“I just bought a new car, but I can’t drive it. I’ve been out a few times trying to wipe the snow off it. We’re just trying to stay inside now.”

The senior nutrition program is overseen by the Area Office of Aging of Northwestern Ohio Inc., but they contract with Jackson, Miss.-based vendor Valley Services Inc., to operate the day-to-day services.

In Perrysburg Township, people were also cooking meals for others Tuesday at a makeshift shelter at the Perrysburg Heights Community Center, where 17 children and a few adults spent the night on Monday and stayed into Tuesday.

The community center at 12282 Jefferson St. has been open to the public since Sunday, providing heat, shelter, and food for anyone in need. It will close early today.

“We want to give people with not the best opportunity at home to come here and be warm,” said volunteer Kristie Koester, about having the center open. “We’ve offered to take pets here too.”

The food at the center isn’t all from the community association.

Ms. Koester said Churchill’s Market brought bread, a bakery delivered three dozen donuts, and people have gone out of their way to help.

“We’re still here trying to help,” Ms. Koester said.

“Why waste this building?”

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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