Meals on Wheels means more than a sandwich

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Sharron Parks presents Beulah McNair, center, with the Servant Leadership Award at the Meals on Wheels Volunteer Appreciation Gala Thursday night. Gene Edens, right, learned about Meals on Wheels firsthand about 25 years ago.

By MARIANNE THOMASSON marianne@newnan.com "It's not just the food, but the love in the package," said Gene Edens. Edens was addressing those gathered for the Meals on Wheels Volunteer Appreciation Gala Thursday night at Cokes Chapel United Methodist Church. He got his knowledge of Meals on Wheels firsthand about 25 years ago.
"I was a young Kroger store manager looking for something meaningful. I wanted to give out some turkey dinners and the Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS) and was given three names," he said. "I made the visit in Fayetteville, going down a paved road, a gravel road and a dirt road. There was an old home with a big porch and more wood than paint. The gentleman and his wife had two children. He was a painter and had fallen off a scaffold, breaking his back and he had a paralyzed leg," Edens continued. "He was out of work and had lost their home. The house belonged to a friend who was going to tear it down. I went in, excited. The kids were beautiful. Then I walked into the kitchen. It had a dirt floor. In Fayetteville." It was about 1986. Edens was shocked. "I got back to the lady with DFACS and said I couldn't believe the living conditions. She said I ought to ride with the guys who deliver meals on wheels. So I did. "There was a small church in Fayetteville that the church had outgrown. We packed juice, sandwiches, Coke, loaf bread, Vienna sausage -- the meals wouldn't meet today's requirements. "Then I met a retired Navy Seal. The kids were gone, his wife had passed, he had an illness and couldn't even get out of his wheelchair. His living conditions would tear your heart out. He said he got money from the government and that usually paid the heating bill," Edens continued. "I asked 'Who checks on you? Who comes in and touches you?'" He replied, "Meals on Wheels." After that, the United Way campaign cranked up for the year. Eden had money taken from his paycheck and designated it to go to Meals on Wheels. He encouraged others at the store to do the same. One young man came into his office where there was a plate of food and Edens said, "For $1 a day, we can feed somebody. Can you commit to $5 a week?" The boy agreed and started to leave. Then he turned on his heel and said, "Make that $7 a week. My mee maw and paw paw eat seven days a week, not just five." Edens now manages the Kroger at Thomas Crossroads where 92 percent of the employees pledge to the United Way, designating their contribution to go to Meals on Wheels. He told the volunteers, "You're going to touch people, but more importantly those people are going to touch you."


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