‘Mayors on Wheels’: Local leaders to help deliver meals to those in need
CHINA GROVE — The last year or so has been a bit rough on Lee Archie Miller. He lost his wife, Virginia, in late August. They had been married 63 years.
In December, Miller had cataract surgery on one eye. In January, an operation on the other. So he hasn’t been driving for awhile.
Miller had a pleasant surprise Wednesday when two friends knocked on the door of his Harry Street home. Jim Purvis was delivering Miller’s lunch from Meals on Wheels, and China Grove Mayor Don Bringle was along for the ride.
Miller and Bringle go way back. They worked 27 years together at China Grove Textiles — part of Miller’s 45-year career at the mill.
Bringle remembered how Miller was a brute of a man, who could handle cotton bales with ease. They reminisced and talked about the whereabouts of mutual acquaintances and how everybody’s health was.
“Lee’s a good one,” Bringle said, heading back to Purvis’ car to make more deliveries.
Bringle was one of five mayors in Rowan County municipalities who accompanied Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers on their deliveries Wednesday. The others were Paul Woodson of Salisbury, Beau Taylor of Rockwell, Jody Everhart of Spencer and John Steele of Cleveland.
It was part of Meals on Wheels of Rowan Inc.’s participation in a national “Mayors and Big Wheels” event, in which community leaders were invited to ride with volunteers on their routes.
Rita Sims, executive director of Meals on Wheels Rowan, said more than 600 mayors and other local officials participated nationwide Wednesday.
“It’s a real big thing,” she said.
The mayors’ participation helps in showing their support for the program and raises awareness of Meals on Wheels, Sims said.
“By delivering today,” she added, “it allows them to see first-hand what we do and understand it.”
Local mayors have been participating in this annual event for the past six years.
Sims said it’s also important to show how people’s United Way contributions — Meals on Wheels is a United Way agency — are being used.
In Rowan, Meals on Wheels delivers about 200 meals daily on 28 different routes. The foods are prepared and packaged at two sites — Jimmie’s restaurant in China Grove and C.J.’s in Cleveland.
The southern Rowan area, which is in dire need of more volunteers, has seven routes, meaning seven drivers are needed every day.
Purvis takes the China Grove route on Wednesdays. He and Bringle picked up their cooler of meals at Jimmie’s and set out to make six stops and deliver seven meals.
The other southern Rowan routes are Enochville, Lakewood, Atwell, Landis, East Kannapolis and West Kannapolis.
Wednesday’s lunch included a piece of turkey, rice, carrots and peas, a drink of milk or juice, bread and pudding for dessert.
Some Meals on Wheels recipients receive a Salisbury Post newspaper as part of their deliveries. Often, the volunteers also pick up newspapers in the front yards or driveways on their way to taking meals to the door.
Purvis and Bringle went in style Wednesday. Bringle got to ride in Purvis’ blue Cadillac, with a convenient pop-up trunk.
“I look forward to doing this, getting out in the community and serving them,” Bringle said of the “Meals” experience.
As is his custom, Mike Shumate pressed a remote and raised the garage door at his house to greet his Meals on Wheels friends.
Shumate, who has lost the lower portion of his left leg to a fluid and circulation disorder, is recently back from several months of rehabilitation.
He has learned to walk with his artificial limb, but it’s still painful and difficult.
“The incision isn’t tough-tough yet,” Shumate said.
Shumate also suffered an emotional loss recently. His mother died Dec. 4.
Shumate spends considerable time in the garage, which he has transformed into a retreat filled with NASCAR collectibles, a refrigerator, microwave, television and plenty of Sun Drop.
His meal rests for a bit on a work bench in the corner while he talks with Bringle and Purvis.
Shumate parked his wheelchair close to a scooter he hasn’t been able to ride in more than a year and next to a kerosene heater, which felt good on this cool, first-of-spring morning.
“Everybody has a fit over my leg,” Shumate said. He has decorated his artificial limb with a mean looking skull.
Purvis always enjoys his visit with Shumate, though by necessity it’s sometimes shorter than he would like.
“Have a good week, Mike,” Purvis said, heading back to the car.
On Stevens Street, Bringle and Purvis pick up the newspaper in the driveway and, following instructions, leave a meal in a mini-fridge set up in the carport. They don’t see the home’s occupant.
But they enjoy their visit with Bessie Patterson on John Street.
Bringle introduced himself and in explaining his last name, revealed that he is the great-great grandson of the Bringle for whom Bringle Ferry Road is named,
Purvis, Bringle and Patterson had a long conversation at Bessie’s side door, where the discussion eventually turned to cars.
Patterson described how she takes “very good care” of her low-mileage vehicle, and Bringle warned her she had better watch Purvis, he might want that car someday.
“He’s got more cars than Carter has pills,” Bringle said.
Earlier, as they all were kidding around, Patterson threatened to hit Bringle with her newspaper.
But in a more serious moment, she said how much she appreciated the Meals on wheels visits.
“He’s uplifting,” Patterson said of Purvis. “He certainly is.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.