In the past six years Soup for Seniors, thanks to people of good will from congregations, schools, civic groups and professional practices, has grown as its purpose has become known. The most recent collection, which has touched folk throughout the Roanoke Valley as well as some in Craig and Botetourt, found cans without number filling tables in the closest collection point near Salem, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in the North Lakes area off Peters Creek Road.
The total isn’t in yet, but it’s certain that many elderly people known to staff and volunteers from the Local Office on Aging (LOA) will not go hungry on days throughout the year when they can’t get out. On their shelves will be not only cans of easily prepared soups but also meat, vegetables and fruit some of which can be eaten if no electricity is available.
Originally the drive was confined to soup and operated out of Melrose Towers, a rent-adjusted apartment house in Northwest Roanoke. Then it moved further out to a church once served by the Rev. George Edwards, a Disciples of Christ pastor who now is on the staff of the LOA. When ownership of that site changed, the joint Anglican-Lutheran parish up the hill became the gathering point for the next three years.
As representatives of donating groups brought in food the first week in February, an army of volunteers unpacked, sorted contents of bags and then filled bright red fabric sacks each with about 20 items needed by elderly residents. Quantities were tallied – Pam McAdams, the director of community services for the LOA, was kept busy with sheets and calculators – in a remarkable assembly-line system.
The goal this year was 50,000 cans of soup, meats like tuna and ravioli and various beans and corn products. Breakfast foods like quick oatmeal also were donated along with the ever-needed peanut-butter-and-jelly and crackers. Nothing in breakable glass could be used.
In some congregations with active youth groups, the Soup for Seniors drive was tied to Super Bowl Sunday so that when groups gathered to eat and watch the sports history-making game, they were requested to bring one or more cans of needed food.
In coming weeks the red bags will be distributed to households served by the Meals on Wheels volunteers who stay in touch weekly with older people living alone; the weekly delivery of food and brief visit have been shown to be invaluable in discovering possible accidents or illness which might not otherwise have been caught in time.
When youth help, supporters say, Soup for Seniors has the added benefit of encouraging teens to think of their elders’ needs.
McAdams noted that Roanoke County school personnel as well as the various groups affiliated with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) were valuable supporters this year. Others, like myself, just stopped by after finding some good bargains.
-Submitted by Frances Stebbins