On Saturday, September 20, Bay Ridgeites hit the pavement in support of elderly neighbors who rely on their feet – and their wheels – for six meals a week.
The 20th annual Bay Ridge Center Walkathon was a smashing success, with over $9,000 raised (and more money still coming in by mail) to supply hot meals to around 500 seniors throughout southwest Brooklyn through the Meals on Wheels program, which operates out of the senior center, housed in the basement of Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 411 Ovington Avenue.
Dozens of residents – local seniors included – came out to parade the roughly mile long route, jingling tin cans and collecting money from passersby and businesses.
“I started here as a volunteer when I was unemployed and wound up in a paid position, doing as much as I can, because it’s very rewarding,” said Kevin Rohan, 57, who joined the parade and helps deliver meals to homebound seniors. “Every route has roughly 100 clients and it’s only a few seconds each, but I can tell if they’re feeling good or if they fell.”
Elias Shakkour, 70, agreed, noting that he enjoys spending part of his retirement days in service to his neighbors because “this is something that comes from the heart, not for a paycheck.”
Among those participating were members of Guild for Exceptional Children, Xaverian High School’s marching band, Dime Bank, Connors and Sullivan, Northfield Bank, Mariano and Associates, Cub Scout Pack 518 and Boy Scout Troop 9318.
According to BRC Executive Director Marianne Nicolosi, proceeds from the walkathon – and the day-long flea market and book sale – represent “20 to 25 percent of our funding per year” and help pay for 150,000 meals served per year, 20,000 of them on-site at the senior center and another 10,000-20,000 of which are brown bag lunches.
“And despite all that,” she noted, “we’re still not meeting the need fully. We have at least 50 people on our waitlist. We’re one of the only agencies still delivering hot meals, not frozen ones.
“I can’t even explain how important that is, that one meal a day, plus two on Fridays. Seniors have to starve on Sundays” if they can’t get groceries in order to cook, Nicolosi continued. “How would you manage to survive on one meal per day?”
The day also featured the center’s annual flea market, which raises funds both for senior center programming and seniors themselves, as they purchase tables and sell everything from old records and dishware to books and handmade jewelry.
This year, Brooklyn Animal Action was also on hand with kittens for adoption, drawing a steady crowd that then stayed for the flea market.
Janice Schiavo, 66, who has been attending the center for years and participates in the walkathon every year, noted that she particularly enjoyed this year’s event because of the animals. “For me, being a senior, animals tend to be comforting, giving you unconditional love,” she explained.