WAXAHACHIE — Hawks, Eagles, Indians, Lions, and Panthers, oh my.
Residents like Carolyn in Waxahachie and Gail in Palmer see Meals on Wheels of Johnson and Ellis County volunteers daily.
Tuesday morning, those enlistees had some help from friends — area school district mascots that delivered meals to elderly residents in or on the fringes of rural Ferris, Red Oak, Rockett, and Waxahachie communities.
"We're delivering two routes today, which usually has between 15 and 17 people. We're going to do one of the rural Waxahachie routes and one of the routes near Rockett, in the country area," said Lisa Deese, the Meals on Wheels Community relations specialist. "Since we're doing the rural areas, some of the homes will have Ferris, Red Oak and Waxahachie addresses. It's so much fun and exciting for these families because sometimes our volunteers are the only people our clients see during the day. Can you imagine being that person and seeing the Red Oak Hawk or the Waxahachie Indian coming up to your door with a meal? It's a surprise, it's fun and it puts a smile on their faces."
Volunteers in Ellis County deliver more than 2,000 meals — along with friendly visits and safety checks — to those who need them most. Meals-on-Wheels of Johnson and Ellis counties rely on an army of more than 85 daily volunteers to deliver meals, typically between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., five days a week.
Meals on wheels of Ellis and Johnson counties serve a total of 2,400 elderly and physically challenged persons per year in a two-county service area that covers over 1,700 square miles.
Though the idea sprung from the mind of Madison Zandt, a Waxahachie High School junior and Indian mascot, in 2016, with the help of others in the county the group's numbers have boomed. Last August, in the event's inaugural year, it was former Indian Mickie Rawls, Ennis High School mascots Jordan Hull and Velvie Thomas, Red Oak High School mascot Drew Davis and Midlothian High School mascots Riley Greiten and Sarah Phillips that started the cause.
In 2017, it was Walnut Grove Middle School Wildcat, new Lions Parker Carver and Hailey Dunlap, Sara Ruiz as Blaze the DeSoto Eagle and Jomar Rivera as Garland Centennial's Petey the Patriot that helped it grow and continue.
"Madison gave us a call since we play Waxahachie during the first game of the season and we said, 'absolutely,'" Rivera's mother Wendy Jackson said. "We wanted to make sure we supported. Texas is known for football and known not to be nice all the time, so it's a great way to build camaraderie and come out together on something and give back."
Jackson serves as the Garland Centennial head varsity cheer sponsor and the mascot coach.
"I was free the 15th and had nothing to do and so I said, 'Why not help and make people smile," Rivera added. "That's the only real reason I became a mascot — to make people cheer."
Seeing the smiling face of a Meals on Wheels volunteer toting delectable goodies is one thing. Opening the door and seeing a pair of Lions or Panthers or an Eagle, Indian, Hawk, Lion, Panther, Patriot, Wildcat or Yellow Jacket — especially in Carolyn's case — is another matter entirely.
Carolyn, as well as the other residents, opened their doors expecting a person. What they got were well-wishers, a meal, and a 6-foot maroon hawk.
"Ooh," she purred. "Are you all here for me? Would you like to come in?"
Zandt assured her she was while the hawk stepped into her shadow and followed her past the threshold with a specially prepared meal. The others joined them, filling almost every available inch of her living room.
The eagle sat feet away from her recliner perched on a coach, the Patriot, Indian, Wildcat and both lions had a dance off to mark the occasion. The hawk stood sentinel, quietly watching them all.
Sinking into her chair, Carolyn identified each in attendance until she got to Sampson and Delilah, Ennis' lion and lioness.
"You look like you're the same," Carolyn chortled.
"That's because they're the Ennis Lions, Sampson and Delilah," Zandt replied, straightening her feathered headdress. "They're here to see you and bring you a meal."
"Oh, dear," Carolyn said auspiciously, smiling as she jokingly rolled her eyes and waved at the pair.
Some came from inside Ellis County's borders. Others — Like DeSoto's Blaze the Eagle and Garland Lakeview Centennial's Petey the Patriot did not. All came to give back and use their influence to affect the towns and cities positively.
Zandt said she never envisioned it growing to what is right now and thanked Meals and Wheels for giving her and her friends the opportunity to do something good in the community.
"I never imagined it would grow to this," she said about a momentary whim that blossomed into what seemingly has caught fire in Ellis County. "I thought it would be the same people as last year because those are the people I contacted. I did some more research and found some more people and more schools added themselves to it. Hopefully, we'll have the whole state of Texas — or at least all of North Texas — handing out meals and bringing cheer."
*Editor's note: It is the policy and at the request of Meals on Wheels to not include the last name of residents in any media reports.
Marcus S. Marion is the sports editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror. He can be reached by phone at (469) 517-1456 or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.