By Jessica Groover
Elaine Williams of Harrisburg met Mayor Tim Hagler for the first time on Wednesday when he came to her house and delivered two meals.
“I’ve never laid eyes on him,” Williams said. “Right here (at home) is where I stay.”
Williams is one of the 350 residents of Cabarrus County who receive food and beverages from Meals on Wheels. She was one of the many clients who met her mayor when he participated in Mayors and Others For Meals Day.
“It’s a national program that the national Meals on Wheels does,” said Kimberly Strong, executive director for Cabarrus Meals on Wheels. “Mayors across the nation participate. There are over 1,000 mayors and other council members delivering today.”
And in Cabarrus County, mayors Hagler, Scott Padgett, John Crump and Troy Barnhardt and County Commissioner Jay White participated, each riding along with one of the almost 700 volunteers for the organization. Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer usually participates but was out of town.
The event began in 2006 as a way to raise awareness of senior hunger and promote community action.
Before the mayors rode with the volunteers on Wednesday, they talked about how surprised many of the people who received the meals from them in the past were when they saw their mayor at the door.
“When I do this, I get to see the people I know, and they are surprised, but the credit goes to the people that do this on a regular basis,” said Padgett, mayor of Concord.
Padgett also saw the other perspective when he visited his aunt and uncle in South Carolina who are homebound and receive food from Meals on Wheels.
“They were excited to see me, but when the Meals on Wheels people came, that was the focus,” Padgett said. “That Meals on Wheels person is a regular part of their life, and I will never forget that simple meal and how much it meant.”
Meals on Wheels has noticed an increase in the amount of people it serves. Paula McManimen, a volunteer with the organization for four years, delivered food and beverages with Hagler to the 11 stops and 15 people on her route.
“This route has grown quite a bit in the past eight months,” McManimen said. “At first, it was about seven (stops).”
McManimen said she thought the rising need was due to the economy and the aging population. Most of the clients she and Hagler delivered to were elderly residents.
She and Hagler said it was important to remember homebound residents and help in any way possible.
“There’s so many different ministries, and this is one of the great ones,” Hagler said. “It’s sad to know if you weren’t getting in the car and hand delivering (a meal) to them, they may not eat that day. You could impact a life today.”
In his past few years of participating in the Mayors and Others for Meals Day, Hagler was surprised at how inviting the clients were to those who delivered meals.
As he went to the 11 stops on Wednesday, he spoke with the residents about the weather, their health, and he was even recognized as a former Central Cabarrus High School football player.
“That was unbelievable,” Hagler said about being recognized. “Those are the kinds of surprises you like.”
At the last house, he received another surprise when he and McManimen delivered a meal to Jean Hamm of Harrisburg, who met him two years ago and had her picture taken with him. Hamm had saved the published photograph and showed it to him.
“This is the only way I see the mayor,” Hamm said. “I thank (Hagler and McManimen) for coming. Meals on Wheels has been a lifesaver for me.”
• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.