BY SUSAN M. BRACKNEY (Bloom Magazine contributor)
Becky (Anton) Hrisomalos packed something extra when she came to Bloomington to attend Indiana University in 1949—a strong desire to serve others. “I remember my father saying, ‘Do for your community. Do whatever you can to help this wonderful country!’” Hrisomalos says. A first-generation American, Hrisomalos was raised in South Bend by Greek immigrant parents who instilled values of selflessness and hard work in their children.
Nearly 70 years later, Hrisomalos still lives—and volunteers—in Bloomington. She’s been so indispensable that she’s netted an Indiana Governor’s Award, the Bloomington Northside Exchange Club’s Book of Golden Deeds Award, the Local Council of Women’s President’s Award, and other honors. This November, she’ll receive the Rotary Club Service Above Self Award.
The 88-year-old remains active with Friends of the Library, and still works for Meals on Wheels—a program she started here some 40 years ago. Of that time, she recalls, “On days when nobody had a car, the fire station and the police would help deliver meals. It was a community project that they all wanted to work.”
When Hrisomalos fell in love with Bloomington as a student, she also fell for and married Frank Hrisomalos, a “Bloomington boy” studying pre-med. His parents had been Greek immigrants, too. “We lived right where Peoples Park is now,” she says. “There used to be a house there.”
Eventually, the pair built a new home in the country. “There was no College Mall yet,” she says. “It was still all cows and barns.” There, the couple would look after their elderly mothers and raise four children—three of whom still live
At the age of 50, Hrisomalos earned a master’s degree in social work. She worked at Bloomington Hospital for 23 years—17 as director of social services—and was once named Region 6 Social Worker of the Year by the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She’s now retired—and widowed after 64 years of marriage.
She still lives in that “country” home, although the cows and barns are long gone. “I have wonderful neighbors,” she says. “They’re all students. We have cookies and Greek pastries, so they’re friends as well. Right now, I’m hosting a student from South Korea, and I love that!” She’s contemplating hosting a second student from another country soon.
After all these years, she’s still in love with her adopted city. “I’m always grateful that Bloomington is so welcoming,” she says. “Bloomington has been wonderful to me and our family, and I love being able to do whatever I can.”
On Kathleen Oliver’s Meals on Wheels route, there is a gentleman who is a victim of stroke. He doesn’t have family in the area. Every day is a struggle – even walking is very difficult. He can’t drive a car. “He wouldn’t be able to stay where he is if not for this service,” said Kathleen, a long-time volunteer. “Meals on Wheels is vital for him.”
Stories like this helped Kathleen realize more than 17 years ago that she wanted to be a part of Meals on Wheels. Her mother-in-law Mary Oliver had been instrumental in helping to bring this important service to Bloomington. She began volunteering on a route with Mary. When Kathleen became pregnant, Sally Fairfield took over for her and joined Mary on the route. When Mary passed away in 2007, Kathleen picked the route back up and now partners with Sally.
On the second Wednesday of every month, Sally and Kathleen run “Route Six” averaging eight to 12 deliveries in one afternoon. They offer more than just a hot meal. “Meals on Wheels offers daily contact. We offer a chance to remain independent,” explained Kathleen. “We bring smiles to faces. And they always bring a smile to our faces, too!”
As part of a partnership formed in 2010, the Bloomington Hospital Foundation provides fundraising and investment support to Meals on Wheels while MOW places its investments with the Foundation. Last year Meals on Wheels delivered more than 33,000 meals to Bloomington residents. Of those, 8,000 meals were delivered to low-income shut-ins at no charge.
Kathleen has not only given of her time over the last 17 years, she’s also donated financially to Meals on Wheels. “There is definitely more of a need for this service,” she said. “They need funds to expand to meet the growing need in our community. For that reason, I’ve stepped up my giving recently.”
Thanks to the generous support of Bloomington Hospital Foundation donors, residents who cannot afford this service receive two square meals a day anyway. Meals on Wheels meals (one hot, one cold deli-sack) cost $7 per day, $35 per week, $140 per month or $1,820 annually.
“People like Kathleen are the lifeblood of Meals on Wheels,” said MOW Executive Director Kathy Romy. “We have been around for over 42 years serving the Bloomington community and want to be around another 40 years and well into the future. Only with continued financial and volunteer support will we be able to continue to serve the most vulnerable in our community.”
The Bloomington Hospital Foundation invites you to make an impact on local hunger and consider sponsoring a local resident who may not be able to afford these healthy, dietician-prepared, much-needed meals. Please visit BloomingtonHospitalFoundation.org and click on “Make a local impact. Give now.”
In March, Bloomingfoods’ shoppers helped improve food access for homebound folks by donating a record-shattering $8,692 to support Bloomington Meals on Wheels, where people who are unable to cook for themselves receive two good meals per day delivered by a friendly visitor.
The donation through Positive Change will allow Bloomington Meals on Wheels to provide 2,900 meals to those who cannot afford the daily meal fee.
Positive Change raises funds by giving shoppers the opportunity to round their purchase up to the nearest dollar, or donate more if they wish. Each month, Bloomingfoods owner-members vote for the recipient, and 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to the organization. In April, the co-op program is raising funds for the Community Kitchen of Monroe County.
Bloomingfoods would like to extend its gratitude to the owner-members, shoppers and staff who are making Positive Change a success.
Meals on Wheels volunteers were invited to participate in a research survey to assess the volunteer satisfaction. The survey was distributed in March 2016 by email and included a link to a web-based survey. Seventy two respondents completed the survey with the response rate of 36%. Here is the survey in its entirety.
“Bloomington Meals on Wheels is grateful to Bloomingfoods and their members for this big-hearted donation from the Positive Change program. Meals on Wheels could not carry out its mission without the generosity of civic-minded individuals and businesses like Bloomingfoods,” said Kathy Romy, Executive Director, Bloomington Meals on Wheels. “This donation will go directly to support our commitment to feed those in our own community who desperately need our services.”
Bloomingfoods’ shoppers continue to keep the donations rolling in! In September, shoppers donated $4,259.07 to Bloomington Meals on Wheels through this community-driven fundraising campaign, Positive Change.
Positive Change raises funds by giving shoppers the opportunity to round their purchase up to the nearest dollar, or donate more if they wish. Each month, Bloomingfoods has a new recipient organization, and 100% of the proceeds go directly to the organization.
Duke Energy Foundation presents a check for $5000 to Bloomington Meals on Wheels to aid in program development. Pictured left to right is Lisa Kobe, Duke Energy representative, Bruce Calloway, Government and Community Relations Manager for Duke Energy, Marc Fishman, MOW Board Chair, Kathy Romy, MOW Executive Director.
“The Duke Energy Foundation is pleased to support Bloomington Meals on Wheels to expand their capacity in order to decrease food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition among Bloomington’s senior and ill residents”, states Calloway.
Bloomington Meals on Wheels provides home-delivered meals to those who are unable to cook for themselves due to injury, illness or disability.
Bloomington Meals on Wheels was the chosen Dine & Donate charity for the month of August at Lennie’s Brew Pub. Each Tuesday in August, Lennie’s donated 20% of each participant diner’s tab to Meals on Wheels. Lennie’s general Manager Mike Fox, along with One World Co-founders Jeff Mease and Lennie Busch, presented MOW Director Kathy Romy a check for $560. Thank you, Lennie’s!!
Bloomington Meals on Wheels is happy to announce a grant awarded to us by Home Instead Senior Care Foundation. This grant of $7800 will be used to expand the capacity to serve those low-income clients who do not have the ability to pay for their meals.
The Home Instead Senior Care Foundation Endowment Fund was established in 2013 with the following impact areas:
Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias
Support specialized dementia education and training for families and medical professionals. Launch innovative programs that lead to better diagnosis and treatment. Create support services for the betterment of the Alzheimer’s or other dementia caregiver.
Health & Wellness
Implement programs that bring meaningful change to the healthcare system, making it more accessible for seniors. Provide charitable care for seniors in genuine need. Invest in wellness and prevention initiatives, nutrition and exercise programs.
Education & Research
Make lifelong learning a possibility for today’s medical professionals while investing in the future through scholarships for those studying geriatrics. Begin promising research initiatives that result in meaningful change for seniors’ health, wellbeing and quality of life.
Encourage successful aging in cities and rural communities by strengthening local public services and systems that support the elderly. Ensure the most basic needs of seniors are met through outreach initiatives and collaborative partnerships with the public and private sectors.
As the efforts of the Foundation continue to emerge, we will look forward to sharing our outcomes and success stories.
General endowment funds support critical areas of need based on the discretion of the Board of Directors.
For more information on The Home Instead Senior Care Foundation, visit https://www.homeinsteadseniorcarefoundation.org/about/what-we-do/