Richard Blanco

LEWISTON — SeniorsPlus, the designated Area Agency on Aging for Western Maine, will hold a virtual fundraiser to benefit its Meals on Wheels nutrition program. The 2021 Fill the Plate Breakfast will be held virtually from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 19.

The event will honor Don Harden with the Ikaria Award for his work with older people. Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet, will be the keynote speaker. Tickets are $20 a person and are available at seniorsplus.org/march-for-meals or by calling 207-795-4010. Advance registration is required by Wednesday, March 17. Attendees who register by Monday, March 1, will receive a goody bag with a ticket for door prizes.

Proceeds will benefit Meals on Wheels of Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties.

An award-winning poet and memoirist, Blanco will share selections from his works and thoughts on the theme of “Sustenance:  My Food, My Culture, My Elders.” Selected as the fifth Presidential Inaugural Poet in U.S. history, Blanco is the first Latinx, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role, having read his original poem, “One Today,” for Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.

He was born in Madrid, Spain, to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, Florida. Cultural identity characterizes his many collections of award-winning poetry, including his most recent, “How to Love a Country,” and his memoir, “The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood.” Blanco is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, has received numerous honorary doctorates, serves as education ambassador for The Academy of American Poets, and is an associate professor at Florida International University.

The Ikaria Award honors an individual in the community for singular and outstanding contributions toward improving the lives of older adults. Harden is the former director of aging services at Catholic Charities Maine where he was employed for 40 years. He is a founding board member of the Maine Council on Aging where he serves as vice chair. Harden has been active on committees and a legislative commission to address long-term care workforce challenges. His passions are healthy aging and addressing ageism.

“Don Harden has worked hard to improve the lives of Maine’s older adults,” said Betsy Sawyer-Manter, president and CEO of SeniorsPlus. “We are thrilled to honor his years of dedication and hard work with the Ikaria Award.”

Ikaria is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It is considered one of the world’s five “Blue Zones” — places where an estimated one in three members of the population regularly lives an active life into their 90s.

The Fill the Plate Breakfast is presented in conjunction with March for Meals, a national campaign of the Meals on Wheels America. Last year, Meals on Wheels at SeniorsPlus and its congregate dining services provided 205,000 meals to more than 2,000 homebound older adults and adults with disabilities in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

The overall program goal of SeniorsPlus is to assist older adults and adults with disabilities in the tri-county area to remain at home safely for as long as possible.