Bonnie Zappulla knows just about everyone on the Meals in the Hills course.
A program director for the Mooresburg Community Association, she also knows her clients’ spouses and their pets. This connection is important to the organization’s clients, who are mostly elderly and may be isolated from the community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The only delivery service of its kind in western Hawkins County, the Mooresburg Community Association delivers meals to the elderly and disabled, as well as to mobile home parks.
It also offers free medical transportation and community outreach and works to stock local pantries.
In 2020, the association’s Meals in the Hills program prepared and delivered nearly 24,000 meals and 158 trips to medical facilities in eastern Tennessee.
The aim of the association is to enable the elderly to live independently as long as possible and to avoid unnecessary travel in nursing homes.
For the third year in a row, the nonprofit receives a $ 5,000 grant to A Community Thrives from Gannett, the parent company of Knox News.
Executive Director Priscilla Rogers said the organization would use the money to continue its life-changing Meals in the Hills program, which serves 80 to 90 people per week, and its Pantry Bag program, which provides food. food to mobile home parks, families and children. living there.
The organization has one full-time and four part-time employees and approximately 25 volunteers. It’s currently located in a house, but on its 20th anniversary, Rogers said the association wants to move to a nearby commercial property that was once a restaurant.
“It’s hard in a rural area to be able to get the funding to provide this type of service and expand what we’ve been doing over the years. We started with five people 20 years ago in our Meals in the Hills program and here we are now, ”Rogers said.
Zappulla began her journey with the association 18 years ago when she responded to a church advisory calling for volunteers. She became program director a year later.
“It takes a mind or two to keep things together in a small community,” she said. “We cover a lot of territory, and it takes a mind or two to keep it all tidy. So I try to keep an eye out for services that appear that aren’t provided.”
This intuitive approach to his profession has enabled him to forge close relationships with all of the association’s clients.
“This is sort of how our medical transportation program came about and our mobile pantry program came about with COVID-19,” Zappulla said. “We go straight to the trailer parks, where people don’t necessarily even drive and were afraid to go to the grocery store, so we provide them with perishable and non-perishable items.”
The A Community Thrives grants are chosen by the leaders of Gannett’s USA TODAY Network, made up of more than 250 newsrooms in 46 states, including Knox News.
“Across the country, A Community Thrives grants connect the brands of the USA TODAY Network to the communities in which we operate and beyond,” said Sue Madden, director of the Gannett Foundation. “Our journalists work every day to enable communities to thrive, and this program helps achieve that fundamental goal.”