From tragedy comes service: Blount County Community Action Agency senior nutrition director sees job as mission
Joel Davis | (Joeld@Thedailytimes.com)
Lynnda Manville believes.
The senior nutrition director for the Blount County Community Action Agency, Manville sees God’s hand at work in her life — helping to guide her past the tragic death of her parents in a sudden, senseless traffic accident in 2001, to a place of healing.
“This is not a job to me,” Manville said. “This is a mission. I prayed to God for guidance and purpose through this series of tragedies, and God took me to a place where I can make a difference.”
The Senior Nutrition Program serves about 260 meals a day. It provides a midday meal Monday through Friday to Blount County residents 60 years or older who are homebound.
In fiscal year 2012, it served 68,745 meals and provided 875 bags of groceries. The BCCAA Meal on Wheels program has 20 home-delivered meal routes serving 375 clients daily and four congregate meal sites.
Helping feed those in need is a family tradition for Manville. Her parents donated food weekly to five area food pantries in the Downriver Detroit area. They had a passion for helping feed the underprivileged, she said.
“I do this in honor of my parents,” said Manville, who came the BCCAA in 2012. “They taught me about being a humanitarian and about giving back.”
Born and raised in Riverview, Mich., Manville has endured tragedy in her life. On Friday, July 13, 2001, Manville was waiting for her parents to join her at a hearing to finalize her divorce after 15 years of marriage. She already had a plan for her life as a single woman after the divorce. She was going to live at her parents’ home in the city while she returned to school for a teaching certification in mathematics. It was going to be a great future. It never happened.
“On the way to meet up with me, my parents were both killed as a logging truck — the driver was talking on his cell phone and did not see them — ran over the top of them killing them both instantly,” she said. “Life as I forever knew it was changed. My unconditional love was gone. My divorce date was postponed for six months, and I stayed in my parents’ home while trying to remember to breathe.”
The months passed and life continued, though. Once her divorce was finalized, Manville left the courthouse, got back into her car with the two suitcases she had packed, and headed to the Detroit Airport.
“I had no idea where I was going or what my next step in life would be,” she said. “I got to the terminal, and I remember bowing my head in prayer and tears and asking God to help me understand why and what I was to be doing with this. I begged him to show me where to go. I raised my head and the first flight out was Arizona. I bought a ticket and headed to the plane.”
‘Time to heal’
Staying at a friend’s house in Lake Havasu City for several weeks, Manville decided she didn’t want to go back home. “Everything in Michigan had a memory, and I needed time to heal,” she said. “After about a week, I opened a newspaper and looked at the want ads. I only saw one. They were looking for a senior center director, and I thought how wonderful as I love seniors. This was a way for me to heal and maybe have the opportunity to take care of other people’s parents since I would never be able to do that for my own.”
While working as the director of the senior center in Parker, Ariz., Manville saw an unmet need: ensuring that the seniors of the county had enough to eat. “I went to the city manager and expressed my concerns, and he gave his blessing to wrangle the programs.”
With the help of U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl, John McCain and others, Manville secured the Meals On Wheels and Congregate programs for the Town of Parker and La Paz County. The program is still running strong. By the time Lynville left Arizona to come to Blount County, she was working with a budget of more than $1 million dollars.
‘I get it’
Moving to Tennessee to be closer to her sister, who lives in Knox County, Manville said she was very lucky to find a job perfectly suited for her experience.
“I get it. I get how this program works. I get the fact seniors in their homes are alive and well and not invisible. I get how the funding works. I just get it.“
Manville said that she sees a purpose in the events of her life. “It was God wrangling in my talents and guiding me in a career choice that utilizes my talents and humanitarian qualities. I have held jobs that have paid extremely well and chosen a path that pays in hugs and smiles instead. I love East Tennessee. I am so at home here and love the community. I have adopted each senior here in this community as my own extended family.”
In the end, Manville said her path has brought her back to where she started. “When I was in high school, my parents encouraged me to go on a mission trip to the Appalachian mountains in which we stayed two weeks teaching and helping a struggling community,” she said. “This time I get to come back to the Appalachian mountains and be part of a hunger solution. Life is full circle.”
BCCAA is located at 3509 Tuckaleechee Pike, Maryville. For more information, call 983-8411 or go to http://www.blountcaa.org