story and photos by Nancy Peevy, special to The City Wire
People filled Dickson Street in Fayetteville on Tuesday night (Sept. 2), much like any other night of the year. But on Tuesday, 454 of those on the street wore red wristbands and occasionally studied a map.
They were attendees at the 12th annual restaurant tour, Savor the Flavor, where they sampled food at 15 restaurants along Dickson Street. The $40 they paid to attend the event raised $64,060 for Faith in Action, a Washington Regional Medical Foundation charity that helps homebound seniors in Washington and Benton counties who are more than 60 years old.
Faith in Action is a volunteer-based organization providing homebound seniors with free non-medical services to help promote their independence, dignity and quality of life.
In 2013, 124 Faith in Action volunteers spent 3,600 hours serving 121 seniors, Ryan Worley, program manager, said.
“The volunteers drove a total of 26,000 miles to provide free non-medical support services, and performed over 3,900 services which included transportation to and from doctors appointments, grocery shopping, friendly visits, and yard work,” he said.
Faith in Action serves a very unmet need in the community, Jaclyn Keeter, director of development and outreach services for Washington Regional, said.
“It’s a forgotten population of people. Someone is elderly and they don’t have family and they are alone. What do they do when they can’t drive anymore?”
Keeter said the most important job of the volunteer is to build a relationship with their senior citizen.
“The biggest thing they (the senior) look forward to is friendly visits. That’s our largest service as we are working with people are mostly socially isolated and so they may go day in and day out and not see anybody but our volunteer who comes in,” she said.
“I think it makes a difference in their life,” Nancy Galbraith, volunteer for Faith in Action, said. “The longer you have that relationship, the better; and the healthier it is going to be for that senior.”
Volunteers can be any age and in any stage of life.
“We’ve got volunteers who are 95 and we’ve got volunteers who are 20. Working folks, retired folks. Anybody can get involved.” Keeter said.
There is a shortage of volunteers in many of the local communities. Worley said most of their volunteers are in either Bentonville or Fayetteville, and they are looking to recruit more in other communities.
“We can get a lot of clients, but our missing link is a volunteer,” Worley said. “For instance in Bella Vista and Siloam Springs… our phones are ringing with clients and we say, ‘we are looking for someone to match with you.’”
In addition to providing 50% of the budget for Faith in Action, the event’s organizers hope that Savor the Flavor will help spread the word about the program and encourage people to volunteer, Worley said.
On Tuesday evening, local eating establishments supported Faith in Action by donating samples of dishes from their menus. The food ranged from salsa at Rolando’s, to shrimp etouffee at Powerhouse Seafood & Grill, to blueberry grilled cheese dessert at Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese.
The 15 participating restaurants were Rolando’s, Frickin’ Chicken, Powerhouse Seafood & Grill, Qdoba Mexican Grill, The Flying Burrito Company, Arsaga’s Depot, Hammontree’s, Hog Haus Brewing Company, Table on the Hill, Common Grounds, Jose’s, Bordino’s, Theo’s and the U.S. Pizza Company.
The Garden Room was the sight of registration and an after-party for Savor the Flavor.
Harps Stores served as the presenting sponsor of the event. Other sponsors included Reliant Health Care, Chase Family Foundation and Big Heart Pet Brands and each had representatives volunteering during the evening.