Asher celebrates 50th Anniversary with Meals on Wheels | Linn County

LOUISBURG – Meals on Wheels, which serves more than 223 million meals to 2.4 million senior citizens recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Mary Asher was one of the volunteers recognized at the Louisburg Senior Center. She has been with Meals on Wheels all 50 years.

President Richard Nixon signed a law in March 1972 that amended the Older Americans Act of 1965 to include a national nutrition program for seniors 60 years and older.

Mary Asher started participating in Meals on Wheels in Fort Scott, where her husband Ken began working as a pharmacist in 1968.

She also has been involved in the program in Mound City, Paola and most recently, Louisburg.

Meals on Wheels was a family tradition for the Ashers, going all the way back to a Ford station wagon with wooden paneling. Mary took the children with her, Kenna, Chalen, Danielle and Jerry. There were many cars along the way, she said, but her favorite was the Chrysler Sebring.

Jerry, who works as a pharmacist at Auburn Pharmacy in Louisburg, was part of Meals on Wheels before he was born. Mary started taking him with Kenna and Chalen when she was expecting him.

“When we showed up to deliver the meals, their faces just lit up,” Mary said. “They loved seeing the kids. The girls would carry the meals to the door with me. ”

Meals on Wheels was and is much more than a warm healthy meal to seniors, Mary said. It is a knock on the door to see a familiar face, a friend in the community.

Even if for a few minutes, it was always time to let the seniors know someone was thinking about them, she said.

“We would deliver meals one day a week,” she said. “I always took the kids with me.”

Mary and Ken still help with Meals on Wheels and are active members of the Louisburg Senior Center where they eat several times a week. The couple has resided in Louisburg for 11 years, continuing the family tradition of serving others.

“I go along with Ken now,” Mary said. “He helps me deliver the meals. We deliver Meals on Wheels once a month now.

“Just getting to know the people, seeing them smile and making sure they are OK is the most rewarding part of it for me,” she said. “Someone told me about in when we were in Fort Scott and it sounded like a great thing to be involved with.”

Pat Hutsell is the site manager for Meals on Wheels in Louisburg. Assisting her with meals, organization, delivery and clean up at the Louisburg Senior Center are a host of volunteers, Hutsell said, including: Bertie Dinkle, Lauri Beckman, Beverly Steger, Wayne Graul, Kenny Hash and Mary and Ken Asher.

Meals on Wheels is offered through the East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging’s Nutritional Program, Hutsell said. She has been working for the program in Louisburg for eight years.

The Louisburg volunteers for Meals on Wheels and deliver meals to 21 residents, including some to homebound seniors.

Rhonda Kerr is the director at the Louisburg Senior Center.

In addition to regular meals at the Louisburg Senior Center, and delivery of Meals on Wheels, the center offers much more, Mary Asher said.

Seniors come out to listen to live country music, play bingo and even just talk about the weather and the news over a hot cup of coffee.

The center offers activities like chair exercise, chair yoga, educational seminars and videos, entertainment and craft classes, live music, card games, World War II speakers, speakers of topical interest, bunco, puzzles and games, and transportation services for all, from the general public, to the elderly and disabled.

“This really is not about me,” Mary said. “This is about the wonderful people volunteering for Meals on Wheels and the wonderful things going on for our seniors at the Louisburg Senior Center.”

Meals on Wheels needs public support to make sure the program is here another 50 years, said Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America.

“The Older Americans Act Nutrition Program is the only federally supported program designed to address both senior hunger and isolation,” Hollander said. “Despite decades of proven success and bipartisan support, however, funding for this public-private partnership has failed to keep pace with the burgeoning need to its services.

“With increased demand due to the pandemic atop the rapid increase in our country’s senior population, now is the time to support Meals on Wheels through volunteering, donating and speaking out, to ensure we are able to deliver for another 50 years,” she said .

Mary Asher has always been involved in her community, from Fort Scott to Mound City, Paola and Louisburg.

She was involved with the Fort Scott Chamber of Commerce and the Paola Chamber of Commerce where she served as a board member from 1996 to 1999.

Asher was recognized by the Mound City Historical Society for her leadership, guidance and hard work to benefit the entire community.

She was presented with the Dale Mitchell Service Award by the Paola Chamber of Commerce for her dedication and hard work.

Asher volunteers at Louisburg Healthcare and Rehabilitation, calling numbers at bingo. She takes stuffed animals residents are able to pick out for prizes.

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