The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels is gearing up for its Community of Champions Week, running March 18-21, as part of the national “March for Meals” campaign.

Seven elected “champion” officials are set to deliver meals to homebound and hungry seniors: State Representative Verla Insko; Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt; Carrboro Alderpersons Damon Seils, Michelle Johnson and Randee Haven-O’Donnell; and Orange County Commissioners Renee Price and Penny Rich.

Stacey Yusko, Director of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels, says that last year, Kleinschmidt delivered meals during the campaign and pleasantly surprised a few seniors with a special one-on-one conversation with their Mayor over a hot lunch.

“It was a really nice synergy, I think, for them to think, ‘Oh, you know what, here this person is, and they actually are interested, and they are listening to us. We are not a forgotten population,’” Yusko says.

Yusko explains that Community of Champions Week is an important time for the nonprofit to raise both awareness and the necessary funding to make it through the rest of the year.

“In the month of March, hundreds of local Meals on Wheels reach out to communities and build support that will sustain them all year long,” Yusko says. “We are taking part in that by having actively recruited some of our political dignitaries to deliver meals for us next week.”

Meals on Wheels relies heavily on at-large donations and grants. About 70 percent of the cost to provide the meals is supplied by the organization itself, which is not a federally-funded program. The only guaranteed funding it receives is from United Way.

Yusko says that 2.5 million seniors across the country were served last year as part of Meal on Wheels.

The increase in the number of retired people locally has almost tripled the demand placed on our local branch.

“When you think about the entire aging population across the country and the fact that 2.5 million people count on that lunch time meals from Meals on Wheels, it is amazing to me.”

About 150 volunteers make up the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels. Yusko estimates that the branch delivered approximately 32,200 meals to seniors in 2013.