Thanksgiving signals launch of annual Neighbors in Need drive

Every weekday, Frances and Larry Wolf get hot lunches delivered to their Kelso doorstep by

volunteers from Lower Columbia CAP’s Meals on Wheels program. Every Friday, a Meals on Wheels driver also drops off frozen meals for the weekend.

“We love Meals on Wheels,” Frances Wolf, 86, said this week after driver Bob Chambers delivered lunch to their cozy Kelso home. “They bring an assortment of the most delicious food. They always have nutritious food, displayed so nicely in their little compartments. My husband and I, we’ve been so happy and so fortunate to have CAP. We can’t say enough about them.”

Meals on Wheels is one of the beneficiaries of Neighbors in Need, the annual fundraising campaign sponsored by The Daily News. The 26th drive kicks off today and ends Jan. 1.

“The goal of Neighbors in Need is to bring help to our local folks,” said Publisher Rick Parrish. “It’s to truly help people in our area, as opposed to somewhere else.”

The campaign raised $68,644 last year, the most in its history. Donations during that span now exceed $1 million. The Daily News distributes every penny it collects to local charities, dividing it equally among Lower Columbia CAP, the Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul. This year’s goal is $60,000.

Donations can be made with the coupon that will be published every day during the drive and online

“Our readers have been so giving,” Parrish said. “And these organizations have been so outstanding helping people in need. It all makes this such a great cause and a great effort. It’s something we’re really proud of.”

The Salvation Army uses its share of Neighbors in Need money to distribute food vouchers so people can buy holiday meals. St. Vincent uses its share to help pay operating costs of running the agency, which distributes free food, clothing and household items. CAP divides its portion of the donations between Meals on Wheels and the agency’s endowment program for long-term needs.

The Wolfs are “a perfect example of who we’re trying to serve” through Meals on Wheels, said Lisa Chavez, senior nutrition specialist with CAP. The free meals help seniors stretch their budgets, allowing them to continue living in their own homes, she said. In October, the program delivered 1,979 meals in Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.

“Even when people have a great support system, it’s still not enough for every day,” Chavez said.

Married 57 years, the Wolfs have lived all their married life in Kelso, where Larry, now 86 grew up. Both retired more than 20 years ago. Larry worked for Cowlitz Candy and Tobacco and Frances worked for Dr. Fred Bishop.

Frances Wolf praised the volunteer drivers such as Chambers, 87, who is their delivery person on Mondays and Thursdays. The World War II veteran has been delivering Meals on Wheels for 16 years.

“Every time he comes you feel like you’ve known him forever,” Wolf said. “The volunteers are so important to CAP. They’re so pleasant, and they go through all weathers.”

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