For the first time since 2019, southern Brooklynites gathered in person on March 26 for the 27th annual “March for Meals” — the Bay Ridge Center’s fundraiser for its Meals on Wheels program, which delivers meals a day to over 600 southwestern Brooklyn seniors.
“I think we were all so ready to move past COVID,” said Todd Fliedner, executive director of the Bay Ridge Center. “2019 was the last time we did it live, and you can tell that people are so happy to be out again and socializing.”
Like other events across the city, the Center’s 2020 and 2021 fundraisers were forced to pivot online due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Each year, the neighborhood-wide walk is sponsored by the Bay Ridge Center in partnership with the Bay Ridge Center Community Advisory Board. The march aims to raise money from a slate of sponsors who support the meal delivery program, serving up food to homebound and elderly seniors throughout Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Gravesend.
Throughout the pandemic, the Bay Ridge Center’s Meals on Wheel chapter did not miss one delivery, Fliedner said, calling it a testament to the dedication the delivery drivers have to their residents, who never just drop off a meal but have formed connections with the seniors they serve.
“They really look out after their clients, it’s not like they’re just throwing the meal and moving on,” said Fliedner. “They have an emotional investment to the people they deliver to.”
This year’s fundraiser was especially poignant given the team’s hard work — and inflation across the country. With gas prices and food costs on the rise, the $15,000 raised is imperative to keep the program going and subsidizes the shortfall of the funding the city Department of Aging provides.
“It’s getting harder and harder to have Meals on Wheels with the rising fuel and food costs,” Fliedner told Brooklyn Paper, “but I am proud to say we have continued uninterrupted service throughout the pandemic.”
Perhaps even more important, he said, is the awareness brought to their organization by the annual march.
“Every year, usually the Monday after the march, we get calls because people see the vehicle,” Fliedner said. “I think it’s very important that the community realizes that that resource is out there.”
This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of Peter Killen, who died this January and was involved in a plethora of Bay Ridge organizations beyond the Bay Ridge Center, such as the Bay Ridge Lions Club, the Bay Ridge Historical Society, the Bay Ridge Council of Aging. The event also paid tribute to his wife, Patricia, who Fliedner said is also a big supporter of the program.
“They were a real team, they always did everything together,” he said.
US Rep. Nicole Malliotakis awarded Patricia Killen a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition at the fundraiser, which was also attended by Ridge Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus.
The march kicked off opening ceremony at the Bay Ridge Center on Ovington Avenue at 10:30 am before promptly stepping off at 11 am. Participants covered a three-mile course through Bay Ridge’s commercial streets until returning to the same spot for a closing ceremony — all the while driving home the Center’s message.
“Home-delivered meals are critical to the welfare of our homebound older adults,” Fliedner said, “and it is always exciting to see our community unite for this critical annual initiative.”