Hometown Heroine

91,000 meals later, local woman stops rolling

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“I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with their freedom,” said Bob Dylan, the American singer-songwriter.

What constitutes a war hero? Is it someone who goes overseas to fight with firearms and explosives to implement harm or could it be someone who serves the home front for 45 years delivering meals and encouragement to neighbors in need?

The Franciscan Community Meals of Morgan County, which began in March 1973, delivered its last meal August 31, 2018. The charity program was discontinued, in large part, due to its aging volunteers and their health conditions.

The effort that was carried out for so long was spearheaded by Vonnie Merryman, a single mother of five children who saw a need and felt obligated to serve in her own way.

“All of our children got involved and grandchildren, even great grandchildren have delivered with me,” Merryman said. “People were quite often more excited to see the children than they were their meal.”

Merryman still has many of the program’s records that show over 91,000 meals being served to more than 633 people six days-per-week and holidays.

The all-volunteer program was started by the Franciscan Sisters in England and brought locally by Mary Duvall and Presbyterian Minister Gary Cook. The local affiliation was organized with help from Good Samaritan Hospital and financed by the Eagles. All proceeds were reinvested toward purchasing food and supplies.

Meals were prepared and supplies were provided by multiple local business establishments throughout the years including the Blue Bell and Carousel restaurants, Muskingum Valley Grocery and Mark Rest Center / Highland Oaks nursing home.

“We never had a surplus of volunteers, but we had some really wonderful volunteers,” Merryman said. “Whenever we were really short of volunteers, we announced it to the various churches."

Merryman said finding volunteers has been difficult because meal delivery is at lunchtime and many residents work out of the area.

McConnelsville Village Councilman Mark Dille said people in the community do their own thing, but when someone is in need people show up to help.

Program Volunteer Bethe Favreau said Merryman doesn’t like limelight but deserves recognition because she has been so selfless and has kept the program going for so long.

Favreau said the visitation by the volunteers was as beneficial to the shut-ins as the delivery of the meals. She also remarked that meals were delivered in the sun, rain, snow and ice with slips and falls and dog bites to selflessly help neighbors in need.

Special thanks need to be given to the Merrymans and all the volunteer cooks and deliverers who have gone out of their way to serve the less fortunate in the community.

“The way to change the world is through individual responsibility and taking local action in your own community,” said Jeff Bridges, an American actor.

War hero or hometown hero, but a hero nonetheless.

For more information on Meals on Wheels near you:

Meigs County Council On Aging, Inc.

PO Box 722

Pomeroy, OH 45769

16.37 miles

740-992-2161

Website

Home Delivered Meals

Group Settings Meals

Hocking Athens Perry Community Action (HAPCAP)

1005 CIC Drive

Logan, OH 43138

21.97 miles

740-385-6813

Website

Home Delivered Meals

Group Settings Meals

MoCo

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