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Clayton Police answer call to serve

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

Clayton County's Meals on Wheels program got two new volunteers Wednesday.

Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner and Deputy Chief Gregory Porter pitched in to serve meals to 11 local seniors.

Since February, three Clayton County police officers have been delivering meals three to five days per week on a rotating weekly schedule, according to Lt. Rebecca Brown, the department's spokesperson.

Turner and Porter joined Brown on her rounds Wednesday.

Mary Byrd, director of the Clayton County Senior Services Department, said the program could use more volunteers.

Meals on Wheels serves senior citizens ages 60 and older, who are homebound and unable to prepare a meal, according to Byrd. The program also serves disabled residents who are not seniors on a case-by-case basis, Byrd said.

To make up for a shortage of help, the program called on county departments recently to assist with delivering meals.

Members of the county tax assessors' office, tax commissioner's office, Department of Family and Children Services, and the Clayton County Police Department stepped in to assist, according to Byrd.

"Volunteers kind of slacked off when we had the gas shortage. When the gas [prices] went up we lost a lot of volunteers," said Byrd.

"Recently I met with Chief Turner to discuss a partnership and he jumped right on it. He felt this was another way to serve the community, and also to check on our seniors," Byrd said.

"When Mary Byrd of Meals on Wheels asked us to be part of this program I told her absolutely," said Turner. "There comes a time when we have to roll up our sleeves and give back to the community. It [Meals on Wheels] serves the elderly. These are the people that built the foundation in Clayton County," he said.

The three officers who typically deliver the meals on behalf of the police department, Brown, Officer Kevin Hughes, and Officer Tim Owens, are all members of the police department's community affairs division.

Nellie Floyd, 91, of Riverdale said she has come to rely on the Meals on Wheels program. "I look forward to them. I get hungry," she said.

"We serve over 200 clients per day," said Byrd.

"Meals on wheels is paid for through several ways. We receive a grant from Atlanta Regional Commission, we have an aging advisory board ... and their main fund-raiser is for Meals on Wheels, and then the County Clayton Board of Commissioners provides some funding," Byrd said.

Additionally, "the Meals [on Wheels] of America Foundation partnered with the Wal-Mart Foundation and awarded us $10,000 to keep the meals going," she said.

Volunteers with the program go through a criminal background check and application process, she said.

Anyone interested in volunteering for Meals on Wheels should call the senior services office at (770) 603-4050.