Over 1,500 elected officials across the nation will deliver meals in their communities this week to raise awareness for Meals on Wheels.

The event, March for Meals Community Champions, will feature several local elected officials, celebrities and other prominent figures volunteering their time to deliver to residents.

The local organization, Meals on Wheels Johnson and Ellis Counties, invited officials from around Ellis County to partake in volunteerism.

In 2018, MOWJEC served 1,352 individuals with 165,540 meals in 21 communities in Ellis County and 17 more in Johnson County.

Ennis Mayor Angie Juenemann was the first official to deliver on Monday. She participated in the organization in high school, and it this marked her third year to partake as mayor.

“It was an awesome day. I spoke with a gentleman who is waiting for a heart transplant,” Juenemann explained. “He was just notified that he was put on a list for a new heart. He said his mood would be 50/50, but after we laughed and talked to him when we took the meal he said ‘My happiness factor went up 80 percent.’”

Another client Juenemann encountered said her birthday was the following day. Juenemann was touched by the experience and said she would deliver a cupcake on Tuesday.

Other public officials that will deliver meals on Wednesday include Midlothian Mayor Bill Houston, Pct. 4 commissioner Kyle Butler and Ovilla Mayor Richard Dormier. On Friday, Pct. 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson, Ellis County Judge Todd Little and Red Oak Mayor Dr. Mark Stanfill will join the campaign.

Grayson first delivered meals on a route with his wife over 10 years ago and has participated in March for Meals Community Champions for the past five years.

“I always tell them, ‘Though we bring attention to it, the real heroes are the volunteers that do it week after week.’”

As of August 2018, there were about 600 volunteers in the Ellis and Johnson County systems. The nonprofit has also recently established new routes in Sardis and Bristol.

Grayson agreed the experience brought him new perspectives about his district. He realized there is a community that lives isolated and still needs help from neighbors or whoever. Those homebound residents, he explained, are the ones that Meals on Wheels aids the most with small tasks and human interaction.

“Meals on Wheels provides a great service to our community," Grayson said. "It’s a very important role that they play and we are lucky to have them in our county.”

Grayson did say the county supports the nonprofits through county funds and has for several years. The county auditor's office confirmed $25,000 is contributed to the nonprofit annually.

This is the second year for Red Oak mayor Mark Stanfill to deliver meals. When speaking to the Daily Light, Stanfill recalled Ovilla mayor Richard Dormier — who has dedicated several years to delivering meals — taking him under his wing.

Stanfill was able to notice some clients enjoyed the company while others requested meals to be dropped off.

Stanfill advocated, “I’m excited to do it and I just ask citizens to take that one day and two-hour lunch break — I’m sure their bosses wouldn’t mind for that to happen — and go deliver because I think it’s a great thing.

There are two missions behind the organization — to end hunger and isolation.

Out of the local demographic, 391 people who are provided meals are veterans and veteran spouses while 40 percent of clients are 80 years or older.

According to MOWJEC, over one million Texans live alone. Out of the individuals served by the local Meals on Wheels, 47 percent live alone and 73 percent live at or below the poverty line.

The organization advocates for seniors to remain at home and out of hospitals and nursing homes. A report showed Meals on Wheels helps clients eat healthier, enables them to remain living at home, and improves overall health.

The organization reported one year with Meals on Wheels can serve a senior equates to the same cost of just one day in a hospital or 10 days in a nursing home.

MOWJEC has 28 pickup locations throughout the 1,700-square-mile service delivery area. Local volunteers drove 231,806 miles in 2018 alone.

- - - - - - 

Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450