CHEER car show driven to help feed the need for Sussex seniors

GEORGETOWN – A driving force in the effort to feed the nutritional need of Sussex County’s growing home-bound senior population was on showcase display Saturday.

Scores of vintage and classic automobiles, a platoon of motorcycles, a go-kart and even a couple tractors dotted the grounds of the CHEER Community Center for the 7th Annual CHEER Car, Bike & Truck Show.

The mission: raise money to support CHEER’s nutrition and adult day care programs and enlist volunteers to assist in the Meals on Wheels program.

“Last year in Sussex County we served a quarter of a million meals, over 250,000 meals went to people in their homes. We also have adult day care,” said CHEER Nutrition Program Director Florence Mason. “The proceeds for registering one car goes for 2 ½ hours of adult day care or providing 12 meals to a senior. Your participation today is extremely important to us especially with the budget deficits, the losses that we took this year.”

Recently, non-profits such as CHEER were dealt financial stress with a 20-percent reduction in grant-in-aid funding in the state of Delaware’s fiscal year 2018 budget.

Korean War veteran Walter Koopman, a CHEER board member who is affectionately known as “father” of CHEER’s car show, emphasized the need for new volunteer blood.

“We are in dire need of volunteers to serve meals to seniors. At 82 years old, maybe some of the youngsters out there will be serving me a meal. And it had better be hot when you bring it in the house!” said Mr. Koopman. “We in the military know what it is to volunteer and lead the charge. We need some volunteers very desperately. We just need a few. I’m a volunteer and I’m happy to do it because I do it from my heart every day. I look for nothing and it keeps me young.”

“So, I am asking my brothers and sisters for a few hours a day. If you can’t, maybe you know somebody that can be directed to CHEER,” added Mr. Koopman. “I’ve been out in the field. God, think about it: these people are in their home. You walk in there you might think you were a saint because you’re probably the only person they see other than television. So, we need some help. I’m going to go on the march to get some help for some volunteers.”

To volunteer or for more information on CHEER’s Meals on Wheels program, contact Elizabeth “Biffy” Walls at 856-5187 or email: biffy@cheerde.com.

Georgetown Mayor Bill West is among the volunteers who are on the front lines during deliveries.

“I deliver to at least 50 once a week and in the second week there is probably 30 that I deliver to. And to see some of these conditions that some of these people are living in, is just outrageous,” said Mayor West. “So, we as a community have to come together and try to make things better.”

Ken Bock, CHEER’s executive director, emphasized it has been a particularly challenging year for the legislature, and “it has been a particularly challenging year for non-profit organizations as we try and serve our communities.”

“One thing that is very important to our services here at CHEER and the seniors we serve is our elected officials who support CHEER and all we try to do in the community,” said Mr. Bock. “We are very fortunate here in Sussex County to have a truly dedicated bunch of individuals who come to CHEER functions and support us in every way they can.”

State Rep. Steve Smyk spoke of the state budget. “I need you to know that the state was under terrible financial strain this past session, not that it wasn’t under strain in other sessions, except that government continued to give money that it did not have,” said Rep. Smyk. “And now we can’t give it away. With certain budget cuts for certain organizations like this we can’t as a state afford to give (away) the services that this organization gives. With the shortfall, please, if you can dig deeper into your pockets. Learn to donate on an annual basis. If you are going to give, give to an organization like this and know where your money is going.”

State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn said organizations like CHEER have substantial return on the investment.

“There are programs that the state has that really see a big return on the dollar. CHEER is one of them,” Sen. Pettyjohn said. “CHEER provides such vital services to the seniors here in Sussex County. And I will tell you this is one of the programs where we go up there (Legislative Hall in Dover) and we fight for every dollar that CHEER receives, because it’s worth it. You can see what that money goes for.”

Opening ceremonies were punctuated by a dedication of a Blue Spruce tree on the CHEER grounds in memory of the late Fred Wittmer, Mr. Koopman’s longtime friend and supporter of the car show fundraiser. Mr. Wittmer’s wife, Susan Wittmer and several other family members were on hand for the dedication.

“We here at CHEER all knew him as the ‘Car Guy,’” said Ms. Mason.

“He was a special individual,” said Mr. Bock. “This will be a permanent reminder here, but he will always be in our hearts.”

“My good friend Fred was the ‘Car Guy,’” said Mr. Koopman. “I miss him so much.”

“Fred is here today,” said Ms. Wittmer, whose family entered several of Mr. Wittmer’s classic cars in the show, including a 1997 Ferrari.

The show, which this year paid a salute to the history of the Ford, featured a massive display of motorsports and automobile memorabilia from Mr. Koopman’s collection. It included his time as a race driver in Europe, including LeMans, and America.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.