Dinner on the doorstep from 97-year-old in Itawamba County

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

If there’s one person out there who knows the difference a hot meal … or a cold meal, even … can make in a person’s life, it’s Acel Moore.

The 97-year-old Fulton resident has been delivering food to people’s homes for a very, very long time. After working for the county’s health department for 25 years, Moore spent 16 years delivering food for Three Rivers Planning and Development Council’s Meals on Wheels program.

For that last eight years, she’s served as a volunteer for Itawamba County’s annual charity Thanksgiving Dinner, delivering meals to Fulton residents who might otherwise not have anything to eat on the holiday.

This year, she delivered food to 13 homes around the Fulton area. Quickly, too.

“I can get out there and back before most people have even gotten going,” Moore said with a grin, admitting that her 16 years with Meals on Wheels likely helped a bit.

“I enjoy doing it; I enjoy being out and seeing people,” she said of her years of delivering meals to people in need. “I like talking to people and doing what I can to help them.”

Banish all thoughts about what a 97-year-old woman should be. That’s not Acel Moore. Independent and active, with a sharp mind and sharp tongue, Moore’s demeanor belies her age.

Sitting on a stool in the kitchen of her home, her small legs dangling a couple of feet above the floor, Moore said she can be pretty forceful when she needs to be … or, perhaps, when other people need her to be.

“I’m sort of forward when it comes to helping people,” she said. “I know when they need help.”

For example, when delivering food, she said she makes her presence known.

“I don’t just peck on the door,” she said. “You know I’m there when I knock. You have to convince me you’re not home before I’ll go away.”

In her years of delivering food to local homes — both for work and charity — Moore said she’s met a diverse group of people living in a variety of circumstances. Neither Meals On Wheels nor the charity Thanksgiving Dinner is based on income — both programs deliver food to people who are unable to leave their homes for one reason or another. Stepping into a person’s home, even briefly, is a glimpse into their lives, which are often sad.

Once, Moore said, she walked through the door of a woman’s home and was immediately asked, without a word of explanation, if she’d “pray for her.”

“So I did, right then and there,” Moore said with a shrug of her slight shoulders. “What else could I do?”

Sad sights are, unfortunately, fairly common, though Moore tries not to let them weigh on her too much. That said, there’s a lot to enjoy about delivering food to people’s homes. It’s a chance to get to know people … to stop for a second and enjoy a conversation with a stranger.

It’s kept her going, she said; it’s her fountain of youth.

“Maybe that’s the secret to long life,” she said. “When you’ve worked all your life, you can’t just quit and sit down. You get tired of staying at home after being around people for so long.”

There’s been some talk that this year may be the last for the Thanksgiving Day program due to health concerns in the family of the event’s organizers Rick and Joni Leathers.

Moore, a close friend of the Leathers family, said she understands how much hard work goes into the program each year and why it may not be able to continue, but admits she’d miss it if the program were gone. Others would, too.

“It’s important to a whole lot of people,” she said of the Thanksgiving Day meal. “It’s made a big difference for more than 10 years.

“I hope they will continue it,” she added “If I were younger, I’d do it myself.”

After a moment of thought, she reconsidered.

“Well, no I wouldn’t,” she said curtly. “I couldn’t cook like that. I could serve, though.”

Of course she could; it’s something she’s been doing for decades.

adam.armour@journalinc.com