Generosity extends reach of Meals on Wheels

Inside an unassuming brick building on Southern Avenue, the action starts around midnight.

By 5 in the morning, the place really gets hopping. 

Welcome to Bateman Community Living, where chef Frank Hatfield turns out 2,000 daily servings of Salisbury steak, beef stew, sliced ham or one of his other specialties. Fellow chef Jasmine Pena then adds helpings of vegetables — greens are always a favorite — and sends the meals to be packaged with a chunk of cornbread or perhaps a dinner roll.

“We’re small,’’ said Linda Renteria, food service director at Bateman. “But we get the job done.’’

Those carefully packaged meals go out to Cumberland County and just about every surrounding county as part of Meals on Wheels and other programs designed to deliver nourishing food to home-bound seniors.

Thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Elizabeth A. Hudspeth Endowment Fund and a $17,000 grant from the Women’s Giving Circle of Cumberland County, Chef Hatfield’s cooking will reach even farther.

The two funds, both hosted by Cumberland Community Foundation, along with $3,000 from the Fayetteville New Car Dealers Association and $2,000 from St. Patrick Catholic Church, allowed the Cumberland County Council on Older Adults to purchase a special van in December. The van, which is almost ready to roll, is equipped to keep hot food hot and cold food cold for the organization’s Meals on Wheels program.

That means home-bound seniors in more remote areas will also have the chance to enjoy the benefit of not only a hot meal, but also a few minutes of amiable conversation and someone to check up on them.

“I have volunteers who say the meal is really secondary,’’ said Dennis Bowen, executive director of the Council on Older Adults. “For some people, it might be the only smiling face they see all day.’’

 Before the truck, Meals on Wheels could still deliver a package of frozen meals, but the more remote areas of the county were situated too far to transfer hot food safely.

“Frozen takes away part of the intent,’’ Bowen said. “The intent is to not only deliver a hot meal, but to also make a daily connection, as well as a wellness check and a safety check.

“The program is designed to try to look after that person who’s no longer able to get out,’’ he said. “And some may be facing issues of isolation and loneliness.’’

At their monthly meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Room on Green Street, members of the Women’s Giving Circle will get a first-hand look at the new van.

“This would have been hard not to fund,’’ said Giving Circle co-chair Angela Connor. “We’re excited to see this truck and show our members where their money is going.’’

The Women’s Giving Circle, which started in 2008 from an idea among 14 women, consists of members who each pledge to give $550 a year for at least three years.

Meanwhile, the Elizabeth A. Hudspeth Fund was formed by First Home Health and Hospice in honor of its late founder.

“This is an example of two different ways to give,’’ said Cumberland Community Foundation director Mary Holmes. “In the case of the Women’s Giving Circle, their impact is far greater than any one individual.’’

Staff writer Kim Hasty can be reached at or 486-3591.

Published in The Fayetteville Observer March 5, 2017


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