Center keeps meals ready to roll

Published 7:00 pm Friday, December 9, 2011

The Martha Sykes Widows and Orphans Centerhouses one of several food pantries located throughout the city,but for about 80 elderly Lincoln County residents, it might as wellbe the only one.

    “We’re the only ones I know of,” said the Rev. A.C. Herring of thecenter’s meals on wheels service.

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    Herring, pastor of Holy Trinity Family Baptist Church, and othervolunteers faithfully arrive at the center every Tuesday andThursday, ready to prepare and deliver meals to the local residentsdepending on the Martha Sykes Center.

    About 80 deliveries go out on each of the two days, giving mealparticipants two meals a week through the center. Center volunteersestimate 75 percent of meal recipients are homebound persons.

    “They are very happy to see us,” Herring said of the mealrecipients.

    While the numbers go up and down, center volunteers said 80 or alittle more is an average number of meals on wheels recipients.

    The meals on wheels program began in the early 1990s, a vision ofthe center’s director at the time, Velma Lee.

    “She always wanted to reach out to the elderly people,” saidcurrent center director Ethel Richardson.

    Richardson has only been the director about four years, but is nonewcomer to the meals on wheels initiative. She was there evenbefore its conception. She said she has been working at the MarthaSykes Center since the late 1980s.

    She has inherited the title and the passion of Lee, who passed awayin 2007.

    “This is a vision that I want to do, to reach out and help people,”Richardson said.

    Richardson can’t do it alone, though. Three cooks arrive onTuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 a.m. to begin preparing meals foreach day, which they usually plan out about a week in advance.

    Herring and four other volunteers aid in the deliveries of thefinished and boxed meals.

    One of those helping with the deliveries is Inez Calloway, who alsohelps cook the meals. Her day begins at 7:30 a.m. and doesn’t enduntil deliveries are complete.

    She emphasized that it is volunteer work and not a job.

    “We don’t get paid,” she said.

    Preparing the meals occupies only the kitchen of the center’sbuilding, and the center exists to provide more than hot meals.

    “It’s our mission to provide companionship, nutrition andrecreation activities,” Richardson said.

    However, the center’s resources are limited, and supplying meals tothe homebound takes most of them.

    “Most of our center’s work is dealing with the meals on wheels,”Herring said.

    And those limited resources are growing more limited as oflate.

    “Our shelves have been very low,” Herring said of the center’s foodpantry, the contents of which are used to make the meals. Thecenter does not directly distribute unprepared food.

    Most of the food pantry contents come from the SouthwestMississippi Food Bank, part of the Rev. Jerry Durr’s BrookhavenOutreach Ministries.

    That doesn’t cover everything, though.

    “We have to buy things like sugar, flour, corn meal and kitchensupplies,” Herring said.

    The center anticipates a new source of aid this year though:Lincoln County residents.

    The Martha Sykes Center is among the recipients of The DAILY LEADERand Bank of Brookhaven’s Holiday Food Drive.

    Monetary donations may be made at the either business up until Dec.16. The total proceeds will be split among the recipient foodpantries. In addition to the Martha Sykes Center, thoseparticipating ministries and aid groups are: the Episcopal Churchof the Redeemer, St. Francis Assisi/St. Vincent DePaul, the GreaterHope Foundation and Union Hall Baptist Church.

    I’m so grateful we’re getting more help,” Herring said of the foodpantry drive. “We’d like those people to know we appreciateeverything.”

    Herring said anybody interested in participating in the meals onwheels should contacted himself or Richardson.