Saturday February 16, 2013

TURNERS FALLS, Mass. -- These are exciting times for Franklin County Home Care Corporation’s Meals on Wheels program.

Events coordinator Jackie Belanger, who’s in her second year on the job, is hard at work, guiding the development of this year’s Meals on Wheels Walkathon scheduled for Saturday, May 4, from 8 to 11 a.m. at Franklin County Technical School in Turners Falls.

And tomorrow at the Raymond Concert Hall in the Rhodes Art Center at Northfield Mt. Hermon, school musicians will perform a benefit concert for Meals on Wheels from 3 to 5 p.m. Admission is free, while donations will be accepted for MOW. Visit FCHCC’s Facebook page for more info on the concert.

"This wonderful concert," said the enthusiastic Belanger, "is one of the examples of how the community helps us. I’m always amazed at the level of support from Franklin County and North Quabbin residents and organizations. Church groups, for example, will hold everything from pizza parties to bake sales to raise money for Meals on Wheels."

Northfield Mt. Hermon’s Music Director, Steve Bathory-Peeler, is looking forward to tomorrow’s presentation. The students have played to standing-room-only audiences and have also performed concerts internationally. At tomorrow’s program, the NMH symphony orchestra, concert band, and jazz ensemble will dip into a wide and deep source of music from contemporary to jazz and classical.


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Atticus Michael Cole of the town of Deerfield is a violinist in the school’s symphony orchestra.

Every year, MOW delivers more than 120,000 hot, noontime meals and a well-being check to more than 900 homebound elders who reside in 30 towns in Franklin County and the North Quabbin area. A total of 202,356 miles were registered by 51 volunteer drivers last year. Franklin County Home Care has never turned away elders who request meals despite a $150,000 deficit which, thanks to the generosity of the public, has been cut in half in the last five years, courtesy of the Walkathon.

More than 400 walkers and 68 teams participated in the Walkathon in 2012 and helped raise some $90,000. The number of walkers has doubled in the preceding two years. Belanger is aiming at a fundraising target goal of $100,000 this spring.

Jackie Belanger notes that the event is featuring a brand new walkathon web site in 2013 that allows participants to both register and build teams by collecting pledges on-line. The web site is www.fchcc.org.

"We’re doing our best," said Belanger, "to make the Walkathon as easy and as much fun as possible. It’s a very important effort to support our seniors. Meals on Wheels allows seniors to stay in their own home and gives caregivers the peace of mind that their loved one is not only receiving a meal but a daily check-in from their volunteer driver."

The day of the Walkathon is always a fun-filled adventure; participants dress up in wild costumes sure to bring a wide grin. The costume contest in 2012 featured innovative categories including Best Meals on Wheels.

There will be plenty of entertainment, too. Radio Station WJDF (97.3 FM) of Orange-Athol will broadcast live from the event.

In addition, free T-shirts will go to all who walk. Prizes will be awarded to participants who raise the most in the following categories: Senior Center-Meal Site, individual walker, oldest walker, youngest walker, church group, high school student group, the most unique costume plus other categories. And there’ll be a post-walk barbecue to support Meals on Wheels in addition to free water, coffee, tea, juice, snacks, hot cocoa and snacks throughout the event.

The 2013 Meals on Wheels Walkathon is sponsored by Health New England, the Athol-Orange Rotary, Hillside Turners Falls Plastics-Sugar Hill Containers, Bete Fog and Nozzle, Greenfield Co-operative Bank, People’s United Bank, Greenfield Savings Bank, Collective Home Care, Yankee Candle, Radio Station WJDF of Orange-Athol, the Ellen Abbot Gilman Trust, RICE Family Foundation and Robert H. Gilmore.

Franklin County Home Care is dedicated to many goals, such as preventing or postponing elders’ need for institutional care, providing support to local Councils on Aging, advocating for elders and others with disabilities, funding local projects, including Legal Services, Caregiver Services, Health and Fitness programs, diversity, and facilitating the return home after an institutional stay.

For more information regarding Meals on Wheels or FCHCC, call 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259.