By Carolyn Holtzman
Something about Buena Vista and downtown Lexington is different this week. Bicycles, redecorated by local school art departments, are on display in storefronts and restaurants.
The 31 salvaged bikes aim to bring attention to “Wheels for Meals,” the first annual fundraising event benefitting the Maury River Senior Center and its “Meals on Wheels” program.
Laurie Macrae, director of senior services of Valley Program for Aging Services for the Rockbridge area, is in charge of the fundraiser.
“Out of the Senior Center, we have a home-delivered meal program called ‘Meals on Wheels America,’” Macrae said. “We deliver about 70 hot meals a day, five days a week to folks in Buena Vista and the Glasgow area through our volunteers.”
The Maury River Senior Center provides a number of other services to local residents over the age of 60, including a van transportation service, guest speakers, and a monthly concert performed by members of the center.
Nationally, 10,000 baby boomers a day become older adults, Macrae said.
“That’s a ton of baby boomers. The changing demographics mean that different services are needed to support this influx.”
The Maury River Senior Center is one of eight senior centers under the Valley Program for Aging Services, Inc., or VPAS. VPAS is a nonprofit organization that provides meal, transportation, health and wellness services to seniors across the Shenandoah Valley.
VPAS was established in 1974 in response to the 1965 Older Americans Act passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The act, aimed to help people 60 and older, requires each state to establish agencies on aging.
Aging agencies in Virginia correspond to the 25 state planning districts. VPAS covers the second largest planning district geographically, and serves Harrisonburg-Rockingham, Staunton-Waynesboro-Augusta, Buena Vista-Lexington-Rockbridge, and Bath-Highland.
“We get a little more than half of our funding through the fed government, and most through Older Americans Act,” VPAS Executive Director Jeri Schaff said.
According to its Form 990, VPAS took in just over $3.2 million in revenue in 2015. About a quarter of that funding comes from the state, with another 12 percent coming from the local governments.
“The rest, about 12 to 13 percent, is a combination of private grants from United Way foundations, support from the Washington and Lee Community Fund, and from individual donations and group gifts,” Schaff said.
Fundraising makes up a minuscule part of VPAS revenue. Macrae’s event will be the first major fundraising event for any VPAS Senior Center.
The “Wheels for Meals” fundraiser will be a ride and dine event, in which participants may ride their bicycles on three different trails and enjoy a dinner catered by Southern Inn restaurant. It costs $100 to take part in the ride and dinner, or $50 to participate in just one of the events.
All proceeds will go toward “Meals on Wheels” and other programs at the Maury River Senior Center.
“One of the advantages of [Wheels for Meals], beside it just being funding, is that the federal funding is not only highly restrictive, but the standards are highly restrictive,” Schaff said. “For example, I cannot use federal or state funding to provide supplementary food. The rules are the rules. Down to micronutrients.”
“Wheels for Meals” will take place from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 26. The bike ride will begin at the Senior Center in Buena Vista, and the dinner will be held at Urban Farm Girl Antiques, 2122 Magnolia Ave. in Buena Vista.
More information can be found at www.wheelsformealsva.info.