MARYVILLE, Tenn. - Gracie's Restaurant is stepping up to the plate in the fight against hunger in Blount County.
The Maryville restaurant is donating food to the Blount County Community Action Agency's Meals on Wheels program.
"We started it this past week," Ken Gentry, owner of Gracie's, said recently. "We'll see how it goes. I hope everybody was happy with it."
Gracie's has committed to prepare food for 100 of the agency's Meals on Wheels clients every Tuesday for the next six weeks.
The restaurant provides and prepares the food while BCCAA staff members go to the restaurant and package it for delivery.
Gentry became inspired to extend a helping hand after reading Bread of Heaven owner Michael Colquitt's efforts to feed the homeless and hungry last Christmas.
"It's just something that recently has kind of tugged at me, and I just figured out what I could do to help people who are underfed or are temporarily in need of assistance," Gentry said. "Food is one of the few things I know a little bit about."
BCCAA Senior Nutrition Director Lynnda Manville said the help is much appreciated.
"Our friends at Gracie's understand the challenges we face feeding so many of our seniors in Blount County. They saw the need in [a The Daily Times story] and called to see what they could do. The generous offer to prepare meals has created a buzz with the homebound seniors."
"So many fondly remember the meals they enjoyed at Gracie's through the years," Manville said. "And now they get to enjoy it again. We have coined the phrase 'Tuesdays with Gracie's,' and we couldn't be more grateful or excited."
Although she said it is hard to put a price on the value, Manville estimated that the donated value of the meals exceeds $4,500.
Gentry has been involved with other efforts to feed the hungry, including offering Gracie's Give Back Meal, consisting of beans and fried potatoes and cornbread, which only costs what the purchaser is willing or able to pay from nothing to $5.
Those wanting to contribute can directly donate toward the cost of the meal so they are available for those in need.
Although Gentry was not out to publicize what Gracie's is doing, he said maybe the news will inspire similar actions. "Maybe it will help another restaurant step up," he said.
The BCCAA Senior Nutrition Program serves about 260 meals a day. It provides a midday meal Monday through Friday to Blount County residents 60 years or older who are homebound and continues to expand.
Last year, the Meals on Wheels program served 68,745 meals and provided 875 bags of groceries. It has 20 home-delivered meal routes serving 375 clients daily and three congregate meal sites.
The agency continues to need volunteers to deliver meals to the homebound, either on a scheduled route, emergency backup basis or to cover volunteers on vacation.