May is Senior Nutrition Awareness Month in Wayne County, and on Monday, May 21, the county will kick off its first Motor City Wheels for Meals Campaign. The fundraising event’s goal is to raise $300,000 to help seniors in Wayne County, who are facing food insecurity issues. The fundraiser, which begins at 5:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. for the VIP reception ), will be held at George Matick Chevrolet/Matick Auto Wash Facility, 14001 Telegraph Rd. at I-96 in Redford Twp. Tickets are $125, with all proceeds to benefit Wayne County Meals on Wheels.
“Thousands of our community’s seniors go without food every day,” said Kevin Kelley, strategic partnership manager for Wayne County Senior Services. “While the Detroit and Wayne County Meals on Wheels programs provide about 6,000 of our needy seniors with one meal daily during the week, the programs lack sufficient resources to expand, or even maintain the growing demand for their services.
Co-sponsored by Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the campaign will raise funds for two Area Agency on Aging (AAA) organizations that operate Meals on Wheels programs in Wayne County: the Detroit Area Agency on Aging (DAAA) and The Senior Alliance.
Both agencies work to serve approximately 6.000 meal to seniors on weekdays, which include a variety of hot, frozen halal or liquid-nutrition meals, depending on the seniors’ needs. According to statistics provided by Wayne County, in 2017, DAAA and The Senior Alliance combined to deliver almost 500,000 meals to the homes of seniors, with almost 17,080 meals going to county veterans.
While both agencies provide services to their capacities, more than 1,000 seniors in Wayne County are on waiting lists, most of which are in Detroit.
“Our primary responsibility is to gather resources that will keep seniors in their homes as long as possible,” said Paul Bridgewater, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Area Agency on Aging, which serves seniors in Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Harper Woods and all the Grosse Points. “One of our key programs that impacts the stability of seniors staying in their homes is our Meals on Wheels. As someone gets older it sometimes become more difficult to prepare a nutritious meal. Since we know that Meals on Wheels is one of our flagship programs, we want to make Wayne County residents more aware of our meals program, and how important they are to our elderly population.”
Bridgewater, who began his career at the DAAA in 1980 as a gerontologist, before becoming the organization’s top executive in 1986, is excited about the first-ever Wayne County fundraiser.
“The goal is to raise money to help feed our seniors in Wayne County, but the event is also an opportunity to raise more awareness,” said Bridgewater, who is credited with building one the nation’s largest and most impactful Meals on Wheels programs. “The campaign is a great opportunity for us to broaden our message, and to have Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joining forces to make sure every senior in the county receives a nutrition meal, is really important. It also sends an important message that we are coming together to work on solutions for the elderly population in our county.”
While raising money is an important goal for the upcoming Motor City Wheels for Meals Campaign, Bridgewater said volunteerism is also important to the success of services to seniors. In addition to delivering meals, Bridgewater said volunteers are virtually helping provide safety and wellness checks on seniors.
“What we have found is there are many citizens who have time on their hands,” said Bridgewater. “So we have many programs that need volunteers, including our Meals on Wheels services to seniors in their homes. When people volunteer, it really helps strengthen our services to the elderly population in Wayne County.”
For more information on the fundraising event, call 313.765.1516. To purchase fundraising tickets or for sponsorship opportunities, log on to www.thesenioralliance.org. For individuals interested in volunteering for DAAA programs, including Meals on Wheels, call 313.446.4444.