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Grant helps wheels deliver more meals

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — The Walmart Foundation presented Meals on Wheels of Rowan County with a giant $25,000 check on Tuesday.
Walmart officials first toured the Meals on Wheels distribution center at 223 N. Fulton St., watching how food arrives and is then distributed to those in need. They also asked Meals on Wheels board members questions about the nonprofit group’s work.
Market Manager David Cruse then presented the poster board check to the local Meals on Wheels president, Rita Sims. It represents a $25,000 grant from the Walmart State Giving Program.
“We’re pretty excited to come to meet you and get first-hand knowledge of your distribution system and how it works,” Cruse said. “As part of Walmart’s state giving program, we’re pleased that we can participate in this.”
Sims said Tuesday this is the first grant that the organization has received from Walmart, and the money will help pay for subsidized meals for its low-income clients.
“This affords us the opportunity to be able to continue to serve a meal without regard to the client’s ability to pay, and for that we’re very thankful,” Sims said.
Connie Basinger, president of the Board of Directors for Meals on Wheels of Rowan, said the funding is very much appreciated. Other board members chimed in to agree.
“It’s a wonderful way to help Meals on Wheels and help our community,” said Neil Westbrook, pastor of Neel Road Baptist Church.
Meals on Wheels of Rowan delivers an average of 200 meals each day to senior adults and shut-ins across Rowan County, Sims said. A total of 900 volunteers take turns driving 27 routes to make the visits, checking on the seniors’ safety and giving them company as well as food.
In 2011, Meals on Wheels served more than 49,000 meals in Rowan County, Sims said, and she expects the number to reach close to 50,000 in 2012.
Last year, the organization paid $97,000 in subsidies for its meals. This year, the cost of the meals is estimated to be $212,000, and expected revenue from clients is $112,000. That leaves Meals on Wheels with a $100,000 deficit that it must raise money to fill.
Sims said the group is funded 17 percent by United Way, and the rest of its money comes from private donations, a barbecue fund raiser and grants like the one from Walmart.
The Walmart Foundation runs three community giving programs at national, state and store levels, Cruse said. The donation for Meals on Wheels of Rowan came from the state program for North Carolina, which awards grants starting at $25,000.
“We thought it was a viable charity, and it fits with our good works program,” Cruse said. “Hopefully, this will be the start of a long-lasting relationship between Walmart and Meals on Wheels.”
According to its website, the Walmart Foundation supports nonprofit organizations with programs in four areas of focus – education, workforce development and economic opportunity, environmental sustainability and health and wellness.
The foundation has added a hunger relief focus as part of a $2 billion commitment to 2015 to hunger relief efforts in the United States.
Gary Sixkiller, manager of the Walmart in Salisbury, said his grandmother used to be a client of Meals on Wheels.
“That was a great organization back when I was younger, and I didn’t know we were still doing it here,” he said. “I think it will be a good thing for us to take back to our stores to help our communities out.”
Sixkiller said he plans to ask the store employees if they’re interested in volunteering with Meals on Wheels. Walmart employees can earn money for local nonprofits if they log enough volunteer hours with them, he said.
Board members said volunteers are currently needed in the southern part of the county, and substitute drivers would be helpful in all areas.For more information about Meals on Wheels of Rowan, visit www.mowrowan.org or call 704-633-0352.

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