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Sunday, January 27, 2013
Rachel Craft has lived in the Edinburgh Square retirement complex in northern Roanoke County for six years. She never married, has no kids. After decades as a retail worker here in the valley, she changed careers and became a certified nursing assistant at Friendship Manor retirement community. She’s 86, but she doesn’t sound like a day past 50 on the telephone.
God bless her, she probably can’t read this column, because she’s lost a lot of vision to glaucoma. But that was no matter when the subject came to Soup for Seniors. It’s a program she’s grateful for, especially this time of year.
“I appreciate the soup that the [Local Office on Aging] sends us,” she told me Thursday.” It’s a wonderful service. I’m going to eat it, and enjoy it, on these cold, cold days.”
Craft is one of 3,000 people in our region who benefited last year when the LOA distributed 32,246 cans of soup, tins of tuna and servings of applesauce, as well as 3,500 boxes of crackers. All of that was donated by valley residents.
This year, the LOA has expanded its goals and is hoping to collect 42,000 food items, enough to serve 3,500 seniors.
Each year, I give a shout to this weeklong collection drive, because it’s the purest charity out there. There’s no overhead, zero employees and lots of volunteers. Every donation of soup, other nonperishable food or cash ends up helping a needy senior.
This year’s collection drive runs Monday through Friday, the week after the Super Bowl. Put it on your calendars; check your supermarket coupons and hit those grocery stores now. T housands of seniors like Craft will appreciate your efforts.
Barbara Moeller, an annual contributor, is retired and lives with her husband, Erick,in southwest Roanoke County. She’s been collecting soup for a few months now — a few cans here, a few there.
“I’ve probably got too many,” Moeller laughed. “My husband thinks I’m turning our garage into a pantry.
“I watch for coupons in the paper, and the grocery ads. Then I go to the grocery stores and get the best deal I can get,” she said. “Progresso, Chunky — I try to get good hearty soups for the seniors.”
When Kroger had a 10-cans-for-$10 sale recently, Moeller was there. When Food Lion offered a buy-one-get-one-free special on soup a couple of weeks ago, she took advantage of it.
Moeller began donating to Soup for Seniors five years ago. It was because of her father, who died recently at 97.
In his latter years, he lived alone. And although he never went hungry, she realized many people in his situation did.
“All I could think about was my dad, alone in his home, and other people in his position, and them being hungry. That’s what hit home for me,” she said.
Many other contributors have turned this into a fun and competitive game. That’s what happened last year at electric utility Appalachian Power Co.’s Human Resource Service Center in Roanoke. Employees there divided into teams; their manager promised to buy lunch for the team that gathered the most soup.
By the time they were done, they’d filled a small room at Appalachian offices on Franklin Road. Similar efforts at other companies — such as Orvis, Shenandoah Life and UPS — yielded thousands of more cans, said Aimee Lawson, a spokeswoman for LOA.
Schools got in on the act, too. “Some schools gathered more than 400 cans of soup,” she said.
Like last year, the chief collection and distribution center is New Covenant Christian Church on Cove Road in northwest Roanoke. Bank of America branches in Roanoke and Daleville will also accept donations. In Salem, the collection points are Vistar Eye Center and Salem Terrace at Harrogate, a senior living community behind the Walmart on West Main Street.
AARP is joining the program again and will provide mesh-style grocery bags for the distribution.
The effort also needs volunteers to collect soup from satellite collection locations, to help pack it at the church and to deliver food to recipients.
“It’s going to take over 100 volunteers by the time we’re done with the week,” Lawson said.
Every homebound senior in Roanoke and the Alleghany Highlands who now receives Meals on Wheels will get a bag. So will LOA Diners Club participants, who are not homebound, and residents of Morningside Manor, Edinburgh Square and Melrose Towers, which are all low-income retirement complexes.
This year, the LOA is also partnering with social services in Roanoke and Roanoke County to ensure that clients who aren’t currently receiving LOA services get some soup, too.
Please consider joining this effort, by donating food, cash or your time. It’ll warm your heart, and the bellies of thousands of folks like Rachel Craft.
Dan Casey’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.
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