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Kits from Meals on Wheels prepare the elderly for hurricane season

Evelyn Harwzinske figured she wouldn't put together a hurricane emergency kit this year. At 86, she gave up driving last August and depends on a friend to pick up groceries.

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Pack something she might not need? Harwzinske didn't want to bother.

But it turns out she got one anyway, thanks to a partnership between the Junior League of Tampa and Meals on Wheels.

"Well, I got spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chili, then there's a little thing of cereal — cornflakes or something — and oatmeal," she said. And a magnifying glass.

"A magnifying glass! I have bad eyes!" said Harwzinske, who worked for 35 years at Maas Brothers department store. "I never thought of a magnifying glass being important in a hurricane kit."

Folks from the two groups as well as volunteers from MacDill Air Force Base delivered 650 hurricane packs one recent Saturday morning. Recipients include weekday clients of Meals on Wheels in Hillsborough County.

Stocked in the kits are five shelf-stable meals, a 1-gallon jug of water, a special-needs shelter application and other items that would help sustain a homebound individual or senior citizen through a storm.

Katie White, spokeswoman for Meals on Wheels, said the 7-year-old project is critical, given that the nonprofit organization's office might have to close during big storms. Many clients depend on its daily meal delivery.

"If our office is not open, at least they'd have something," she said.

Since 2006, the Junior League of Tampa has invested $70,000 toward the project.

Member Laurie Daigle, 39, who helped deliver the kits, said it's one of her favorite projects.

"I love actually being in touch with people who might not be out and about. "I never leave without someone putting a twinkle in my eye. I always meet people who make me say, 'Wow, Tampa is awesome!' . . . They offer something special."

Harwzinske, who lives in Seminole Heights, said she isn't sure what she'd do if her neighborhood was evacuated. "I would sit here by myself, I guess," said the widow who lives with her cat, Shelly. "I've been in this same house since 1948."

She's still deciding where to put her kit. For now, she's admiring it. "I like to look at things for a while," she said, with a laugh. "I think I will put it on the kitchen shelf."

She admitted she might get into it soon, hurricane or not. "I think I might eat those crackers," she said.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374.

Kits from Meals on Wheels prepare the elderly for hurricane season 05/26/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 26, 2012 5:31am]
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