On a cold windy day with slow flurries blowing, it would have been the easiest thing in the world for Maria Nash to stay in a nice warm house — especially since she is 99 years old.
Instead on Wednesday afternoon, Maria was among a small army of volunteers delivering food for Thanksgiving feasts to needy families, as part of the JoAnne Jordan Memorial Meal Project of First Baptist Church in Mount Airy.
And that just wasn’t the case Wednesday. Maria has been part of the food distribution just about every year since it began in 1994, which typically involves around 50 different delivery teams picking up bags of turkeys and other items inside Walmart to take to hundreds of area homes.
Maria Nash usually spends part of her Thanksgiving delivering the meals that are funded through private donations and other means, even though she is not a local resident. The nearly century-old woman lives in Durham and volunteers to help during annual holiday visits to her daughter in Mount Airy, Becky Keesler.
“She (Maria) comes right in Walmart — she doesn’t sit in the car,” said Woody Jordan, the chief organizer of the meals project named for his late mother. “She comes right in with Becky.”
At 99, her mother isn’t as able as she once was, Keesler said, citing usual infirmities of age such as diminished hearing, and knee problems that force her to use a walker. But otherwise she is pretty spry.
“She’s amazing,” Keesler said of her mom, who missed the distribution for Thanksgiving 2012 due to a hospital stay, but aside from that has been part of the program for pretty much its 20-year duration including the first deliveries in 1994.
“It’s always been part of our Thanksgiving activities,” Keesler said of the annual visits.
Even if she can’t physically deliver the bags of turkeys, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie, Maria still does what she can to aid the process.
If nothing else, “she goes along with us and smiles at the folks as they come to the doors,” Keesler said of her mom’s participation. “And she really just enjoys the fellowship with the folks at the church who do it as well.”
“Everybody is so nice and it’s so nice to see everybody,” Maria said when she, her daughter and friend Mark Donnell picked up food at the store Wednesday afternoon for delivery.
Jordan said Maria Nash’s involvement is an inspiration for the annual meals effort. “She really is remarkable,” he said.
“She doesn’t have to do this — she could stay home and sit by the fire,” Jordan added of a brand of service which hearkens to an earlier generation of strong values and work ethics.
“Sometimes the old school is best,” Jordan continued. “That’s the way a lot of us were raised — hard work.”
“You See Them Smile”
“We have about eight new drivers this year,” the meal program organizer said.
But Maria Nash is part of a core group of about a dozen volunteers who have been part of the program since it began, some who’ve helped every year.
James and Minnie Loflen are among that number.
“I guess we’ve been doing it since it started,” James Loflen said Wednesday. “Both my wife and I — and sometimes I use my grandson.”
As a retiree of Duke Energy, Loflen is familiar with the far reaches of the area landscape, so his team usually is assigned to deliver meals in communities such as Pilot Mountain, Shoals and Francisco.
Loflen and his wife are both in their 80s, and with potential bad weather looming, “my daughter’s going to do the driving today,” he said Wednesday morning.
“We’ll make our rounds again, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep up with it,” said Loflen, who also is a Red Cross volunteer and has been a rescue squad captain. He believes such activities, including delivering Thanksgiving meals, are something people should do in response to the blessings they have received.
“I just feel you need to repay the air you breathe every day — to repay something to the community.”
Those who deliver the food also get a priceless experience in return, according to Loflen.
“It makes you feel good when you go to a house where there’s four or five little kids and they realize they’re going to have food for a big Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.
“You see them smile.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.