Few noticed, but a big anniversary recently happened for an important community institution. March 22 marked 50 years since the Local Office on Aging opened in Roanoke in 1972.
The taxpayer-funded agency has served seniors for more than five decades in a variety of ways. A fundraiser for one of them is imminent. This is an annual lunch supporting Meals on Wheels, one of the LOA’s most important missions.
Five days a week, week after week, LOA volunteers personally deliver nutritious prepared meals to more than 500 seniors in the Roanoke Valley and Alleghany Highlands who cannot leave their homes.
This nutrition, which costs a few dollars a meal, helps keep seniors away from hospitals and nursing homes, whose care could otherwise cost taxpayers thousands of dollars a week.
And that’s a good reason for you to support Let’s Give Lunch. All proceeds will help pay for this Meals on Wheels nutrition – as well as pet food, for senior customers who have a feline or canine companion.
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It happens on June 17, a Friday, at the North Roanoke Baptist Church, 6402 Peters Creek Road. Tickets are $20.
This gets you a drive-thru lunch box that you can pick up at the church between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. that day. Buyers of five or more lunches can have them delivered to the Roanoke Valley. Although the main entree is a ham and turkey sandwich, vegetarian options are available.
Let’s Give Lunch dates back to 1991 and is the LOA’s only annual fundraiser. Its other big annual fundraising effort is shelf stable, Soup for Seniors. All Meals on Wheels customers receive winter grocery bags containing non-perishable canned and boxed groceries, in case winter weather interferes with Meals on Wheels deliveries.
The LOA started the lunch in 1991, using a grant from Seagrams Corp. which required the LOA to raise a corresponding amount. The agency did so via “Lunch on the Lawn”, a large outdoor gathering outside the former LOA offices on Campbell Avenue.
Tickets were $10 and fans ate lunch at tables under a huge circus-style tent, LOA president Ron Boyd said. About 600 tickets were sold in the first year, raising $6,000 for Meals on Wheels.
In 2002, organizers had a less than favorable nickname for the mid-June luncheon, “Sweat in the Grass.” This is because of the generally hot and humid June weather in these regions. That year, the LOA moved the fundraiser inside the Kazim Shriners Temple and renamed the event “Let’s Do Lunch.”
The cost of tickets remained at $10 until 2006, when the LOA increased them to $12.50.
Somewhere along the line, the LOA has developed a raffle in conjunction with the lunch. It still happens, with goods and services donated by local businesses. (This year, 45 different companies offered prizes.)
In 2019, the lunch sold 3,028 tickets and raised over $94,000. He stayed at Kazim Temple until 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.
If you recall, mass gatherings were banned by the government at the time. Ralph Northam in early 2020, long before COVID vaccines were available. That year, the agency ditched food and hosted online fundraising. He raised $65,000.
In 2021, the LOA brought the food back, either as a drive-thru at North Roanoke Baptist Church, or delivery-only. And that’s when the LOA renamed it “Let’s Give Lunch”. It grossed $53,000.
“We don’t plan on going back to dining anytime soon due to the added cost and intensity of staff/volunteers needed to keep this room running,” Boyd told me.
Boyd said the goal for this year is $75,000. For the 2022 raffle, 45 different companies offered prizes.
Among them are a bunch of $25 gift certificates to venerable restaurants in the area, such as Luigi’s Gourmet Italian on Brambleton Avenue in Roanoke, Cucci’s in Covington and Penny’s Diner in Low Moor.
Also up for grabs are a framed P. Buckley Moss print courtesy of Jordan’s Custom Framing ($576 value) and a one-year subscription to Safeside Tactical, an indoor firearms line in Roanoke ($660).
You can also compete for an ax party for five, courtesy of an outfit called Blue Ridge Ax Throwing ($100). Or, an hour-long jump for four at Launching Pad Trampoline Park & Family Fun Center in Salem ($68).