The smell of pasta and the sound of bingo balls clattering in a metal spinner filled the Anacortes Senior Activity Center on March 8 as more than 150 people came together to raise money for Meals on Wheels.
Volunteers welcomed guests as part of March for Meals, the annual fundraiser that helps cover the costs of providing food to seniors throughout Skagit County.
In 2022, the county's Meals on Wheels program delivered about 107,000 hot meals to 465 seniors in addition to the meals provided at county senior centers. It delivered more than 149,500 meals to seniors through both locations.
The meals are provided by donation. It takes roughly $65 to cover the weekly costs for one person, according to staff.
At the event, Anacortes Fire Department staff, along with one person from the Anacortes Police Department, wore aprons and chef hats as they served dinner to the attendees. Recycled plastic bottles dressed up with big eyes, mustaches and hats helped decorate the tables.
Other decorations and outfits for volunteers finished the transformation of the Senior Activity Center, with all the decorations and many of the outfits (including festive headbands) created by volunteer Bonnie Nelson.
The dinner featured a meal from Nonna Luisa Ristorante and dessert from Gere-a-Deli, and Cascadia Groove provided music. In addition to dinner and bingo, a raffle offered baskets of goodies.
The event netted more than $8,500 for Meals on Wheels, Skagit County Nutrition Program Coordinator Renee Corcoran said.
In attendance were members of the Aktion Club, an arm of the Anacortes Kiwanis Club for adults with disabilities, who have been instrumental in fundraising over the years.
The Meals on Wheels staff thanked the group, which has brought in more than $112,000 over the past several years to keep the program going. The club got involved when there was a bowling bash to raise funds.
The group also heard from a Meals on Wheels delivery volunteer and someone who received the meals for a while.
Pat Thomas said when she had surgery on her shoulder, she couldn't prepare her own meals. The visits from Meals on Wheels meant she got hot, nutritious food to eat.
The group planned to put on this exact event in 2020, but COVID-19 shut it down the week before it was to be held. Now that events are back, the group decided to hold the fundraiser.
"We were super excited to get back to traditional fundraising and to see folks come out and be a part of it," Corcoran said. "It felt really good."
The COVID-19 pandemic hit this group, and many others who rely on fundraising, in a big way. At the same time, more seniors were unable to leave home or lost income, so the need for meals kept growing.
As numbers climb, something is likely going to have to give, Corcoran said. There just aren't enough staff hours to keep up with everybody, she said.
Last year, 465 homebound seniors received services. Before the pandemic, that number was at 340, Corcoran said at the event.
Right now, there are enough volunteer drivers to bring the food to those who need it, but they always accept more, she said.
"Backup drivers are always in need," she said.
The program is supported by more than 275 active volunteers throughout the county.
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