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Sally Strehle, left, with Larvette Mitchell. The friendship between Strehle, a Nebraskan, and Mitchell began about eight years ago when Mitchell became a Meals client. Strehle has volunteered to deliver meals for the United Way agency for 25 years.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Sally Strehle, left, with Larvette Mitchell. The friendship between Strehle, a Nebraskan, and Mitchell began about eight years ago when Mitchell became a Meals client. Strehle has volunteered to deliver meals for the United Way agency for 25 years.

Morgan Meals on Wheels led to long-standing friendship

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com · 340-2395

One grew up in Nebraska as a Catholic. The other grew up near Hillsboro as a Baptist.

One is white and the other black. One is mostly homebound and lives alone, while the other drives wherever she wants and has her husband to keep her company. One worked her whole adult life. The other was free to volunteer.

Despite appearing to have little in common, Sally Strehle, 83, and Larvette Mitchell, 76, have plenty to talk about on Wednesdays when Strehle makes her Meals on Wheels deliveries.

“No matter how long or little we have to talk, we talk about the Lord,” Mitchell said.

They feel blessed they still have their mental faculties in their senior years. They talk about how today’s society doesn’t fear God or respect life as much as when they were growing up and raising their children. And they talk about how they’re ready to enter the gates of heaven any day and once there they can continue their friendship.

“We have no reason to fear the future,” said Strehle, who now attends a non-denominational church.

“That gives us joy,” added Mitchell, who attends a Holiness church. “I’m ready to go any time God’s ready to take me home.”

The friendship between Strehle, the Nebraskan, and Mitchell began about eight years ago when Mitchell became a Meals client. Strehle has volunteered to deliver meals for the United Way agency for 25 years.

Their friendship is possible because the community keeps the program funded through direct donations and through United Way contributions.

Each year the program brings a warm meal on weekdays to 385 mostly low-income disabled and elderly residents in Morgan County. And each year, it must appeal for donations to keep operating. This year, it also faces the hardship of replacing two or three of its delivery vans. It also expects a 7 percent to 10 percent cutback from United Way, which is falling short of its campaign goal.

Throughout February, The Daily will accept donations to the program and publish the names of contributors unless they request anonymity.

Though they often talk about God, Strehle and Mitchell have more in common than faith. Both also like to talk about how tough life was for them compared to today’s children.

Strehle grew up on a family farm and Mitchell grew up on a sharecropper’s farm on the Wheeler plantation. (Her grandfather was a butler for the Wheeler family.)

Strehle said she milked cows and slopped pigs every morning and only after she finished could she walk two miles to school. Mitchell picked and chopped cotton until she was 17. She also washed clothes by hand to help her mother who did laundry for extra money. As an adult, she spent most of her working years running a laundry steam press.

Both said they were already helping in the kitchen and learning to sew and make quilts when they were elementary school age.

“We just didn’t have time to get in trouble like they do nowadays,” Strehle said.

“That’s right,” added Mitchell. “To me it’s nothing like it used to be. We went to church and we had to work. That’s it. If I was moving into a new town on a Tuesday, I was looking for work on Wednesday. If I arrived on a Saturday, I was looking for a place to go to church the next day.”

Both agree the hardships they overcame are their favorite memories. They also believe learning from those hardships helped develop the spirit of joy they show as they live in their twilight years.

“I don’t regret anything,” Mitchell said. “It made me stronger.

Their shared hardships also made for a strong friendship, and Mitchell said she knows she can count on Strehle.

“You can tell by their attitude. You can tell if they care or if they’re phony,” she said. “I see she is for real.”

How to give

The Decatur Daily accepts donations to Meals on Wheels throughout the year. During February, the newspaper publishes the names of donors unless they request anonymity.

Donors should specify how they wish their names listed in the newspaper. Send contributions to Meals on Wheels, c/o The Decatur Daily, P.O. Box 2213, Decatur, AL 35609-2213.

Meals on Wheels contributions

These are the contributions Meals on Wheels has received through Feb. 16.

To contribute, send donations to Meals on Wheels, c/o The Decatur Daily, P.O. Box 2213, Decatur, AL 35609-2213.

  • Polar Bears — Alacare: $20.

  • Evelyn and Harold Shaneyfelt: $25.

  • Betty Clifton — in memory of Carl Clifton: $50.

  • George Breeden Jr.: $50.

  • Leila Wallace: $50.

  • Carnette Leonard: $50.

  • Joyce and Dallas Whitt: $100.

  • Shirley Price: $100.

  • Cedar Plains Christian Church, Falkville: $100.

  • Russell D. Ward: $100.

  • Sandra Bolling-Harrison — in honor of Karen Graham and Jon Holladay: $100.

  • Parkview Baptist Church — Ruth Class: $100.

  • Ann and Mike Harris — in memory of Walter E. Harris: $200.

  • Neel United Methodist Church, Hartselle: $250.

  • Alacare: $92.52.

  • Carolyn and Robert Sparks: $200.

  • Cornerstone: $2,536.35.

  • Anonymous contributions: $300.

    Total contributions today: $4,423.87.

    Total contributions to date: $24,531.17.

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