Palmer delivers 5 millionth meal for Meals on Wheels

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Golf legend Arnold Palmer greets people at the unveiling of a statue of him at the Wake Forest Golf Center Friday, October 18, 2013. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — When Juanita McBride received her lunch from Meals on Wheels Friday, she was greeted by none other than legendary golfer and Wake Forest alumnus Arnold Palmer.

Palmer delivered the 5 millionth Meals on Wheels meal for Senior Services, Inc. in Winston-Salem.

“I look forward to it every day, and I enjoy it,” McBride, 84, told Palmer as he sat in her home and talked with her.

“You take care of yourself,” Palmer said before leaving. He is also 84.

McBride said she felt “delirious” seeing him walk in.

“He’s a celebrity and took time out to come and see a little person like me,” she said.

In true golfer form, Palmer rolled up to McBride’s house in a golf cart. Senior Services employees and volunteers paraded behind the cart.

Seated beside Palmer was Dan Kinney, who has been a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels for more than 10 years. He usually runs McBride’s route.

Like Palmer, Kinney is a Wake Forest alumnus. He wore his black and gold in honor of the occasion. Though he doesn’t profess to be a golfer, he was honored to meet Palmer.

He said Palmer’s presence was like icing on the cake for the Meals on Wheels milestone.

“I hope it recognizes Senior Services for the great services they’ve provided,” Kinney said.

Palmer praised the workers and called the program “a godsend.”

“I hope that we see a lot of future Meals on Wheels for everybody,” Palmer said.

“Having Arnold Palmer here really sheds a lot of light on what is a remarkable community achievement — 5 million knocks on the door and 5 million meals delivered to homebound seniors,” said Richard Gottlieb, president and CEO of Senior Services.

The milestone was a cause for celebration, but it was also a little sobering, Gottlieb said.

With a growing senior population – projected to increase more than 50 percent in the next 10 years — Forsyth County will continue to see the need for home-delivered meals grow. Senior Services may even reach the next million mark in less than four years.

“The senior population is growing so rapidly, and we have our work cut out for us to continue to provide enough meals so that our seniors won’t go hungry and that they receive a regular visit from community volunteers,” Gottlieb said.

The program allows McBride to remain in the home where she grew up.

“If it wasn’t for these meals and (my in-home aide), I wouldn’t have nothing to eat at all,” McBride said.

She believes many seniors are in the same situation.

“It’s very important for people who can’t get out. Very important,” she stressed.

After the meal delivery, Palmer spent some time talking to members of the media and signing autographs for others gathered outside the house.

Palmer was also in town for the unveiling of a statue of him at Wake Forest University’s Arnold Palmer Golf Complex on Friday night. The unveiling was part of Wake’s Homecoming Weekend. Sculptor Bruce Wolfe created the statue, which weighs 1,392 pounds and stands 9 feet tall.

Palmer said Friday afternoon that he was “flattered” to be honored at Wake Forest with a statue.

“I look forward to seeing it,” he said.

By Meghann Evans/Winston-Salem Journal

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