It was the perfect day to take a walk for a good cause as the Bay Ridge Center (BRC), founded in 1976, held its 24th annual walkathon on March 30.
Billed as “March for Meals,” the walkathon raised a record $21,000 to help support BRC’s Meals on Wheels program that helps feed seniors throughout the community.
BRC, contracted by the New York City Department for the Aging, serves thousands of adults aged 60 years and older in Bay Ridge and its surrounding neighborhoods. The center provides hot meals, exercise classes, trips, seminars and recreational activities. It is the largest and most active program serving older adults in southwest Brooklyn.
The event, formerly known as the BRC Walkathon, is held each year to raise awareness about and financially sustain BRC’s provision of home-delivered meals in Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Gravesend.
The BRC Meals on Wheels program currently delivers more than 675 meals a day, seven days a week, to more than 600 homebound seniors.
The walkathon began at 10:30 a.m. at BRC, 411 Ovington Ave. with a brief welcoming ceremony that included comments from Todd Fliedner, outreach and development director at BRC.
“This event was started by Larry Morrish,” said Fliedner. “Many of you remember him. He was a tremendous friend to Bay Ridge and he did so much good for the community. So today we honor him and remember him and thank him for starting such an important tradition in Bay Ridge.”
Event organizer and Chair of the Bay Ridge Center’s advisory board Peter Killen invited all sponsors and community leaders to help lead the walk. Among those participating were U.S. Rep. Max Rose; Asssemblymember Felix Ortiz; City Councilmember Justin Brannan; Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann; Joanna Succar from the Bay Ridge Community Council; Brian Chin, vice president and branch manager of Northfield Bank; Walter Ochoa, owner of Right at Home health services; and Donna McClellan of Connors & Sullivan.
“This year we are honoring Jane Kelly, who is also a member of our board, as our grand marshal,” said Killen. Kelly, a beloved 97-year-old community leader, led the march in what Killen called “the magnificent presidential Cadillac,” which was driven by board member Sandy Vallas.
“I’m very happy to be with Meals on Wheels,” Kelly told this paper. “They do a wonderful job. I hope they continue for many years.”
Rose called Kelly an inspiration and presented her with a congressional certificate. “This is the best organization because you are just doing the right thing,” said Rose. “Nobody cares about Democrats or Republicans, no one cares about tweeting or Facebook or far right conservatives or socialists, or middle. We don’t care. We just care about doing the right thing for people in need and that really inspires me.”
Ortiz said he was proud to represent Bay Ridge and to be a part of what he called a truly wonderful organization. “I believe this is my 10th or 12th time I’ve come to this event, and I feel like I’m part of the family here. So when the board comes to my office, I can’t say no. We have given $250,000 to this organization to make sure that they can continue to move forward on their new endeavors.”
Brannan called Kelly a living legend. “As a kid who grew up in Bay Ridge, I am so lucky to represent this neighborhood,” said Brannan, calling Kelly a living legend. “It’s an honor really for me now to take part in these great traditions that really make this neighborhood so special. They say Bay Ridge is a small town in a big city, and it’s because of traditions like this that we are a small town in a big city.”
“It’s the volunteers who make our community so wonderful, working together for the good of the people and for our seniors who need it most,” added Beckmann. “Meals on Wheels is just so important and it touches the lives of so many people in need right here in our community that it’s truly humbling.”
At 11 a.m., drummers from Fort Hamilton High School joined volunteers who traveled along Third Avenue to 83rd Street and then went along Fifth Avenue from 83rd Street back to Ovington Avenue. Along the way, participants carrying buckets and cans stopped by stores collecting donations.
This year’s premier sponsors included the May Ellen and Gerald Ritter Foundation, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Connors & Sullivan and Grimaldi & Yeung. Walking in the march were members of the Bay Ridge Community Council, Bay Ridge Chapter AARP and Cub Scout Troop 313.
Marianne Nicolosi, executive director at BRC, thanked members of her board including McClellan, Paul Knudsen, Elizabeth Bohrer, Patti Marchetti and Eleanor Petty. “People who are homebound need our help and I thank you all for coming out to help,” said Nicolosi.
“My drivers and my delivery people make minimum wage and I’m not particularly proud of that, but I am particularly proud of them,” Nicolosi went on. “Every single day they come in at around 7:30 in the morning even though I don’t start paying them that early. They put meals together and they help out our kitchen staff. We only have seven people in the kitchen to put out 675 meals before 10 o’clock in the morning. Then they drag all that food and deliver it hot to everybody. And they deliver a little bit more than the meal. They deliver a little bit of themselves. They help take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”
Knudsen, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, explained that his church had started the Bay Ridge Nutrition Center in 1976. “We’ve allowed all these services to take place within our facility for free for all these years. It’s a pleasure to take care of the seniors in our community,” said Knudsen.