CHIPLEY - The Washington County Council on Aging has a waiting list for senior citizens in need of their Meals On Wheels service, a list Director Mary Smith hopes she will be able to shorten, despite experiencing a nearly $10,000 cut in funding from the federal government this year.
Clients are serviced by Meals On Wheels for a variety of reasons, including that they can no longer safely drive to the grocery store or stand long enough to cook their own meal. Some are just being released from the hospital or nursing home and need meals on a temporary basis. In addition to the Meals on Wheels waiting list, they are currently considering closing meal service days at two of our community dining meal sites.
“Our program provides seniors with nutritious meals, social support and a chance to have fun," said Smith. "We run an efficient and effective program, but we can’t tighten our belts any further."
Each year, WCCOA serves about 10,200 meals annually to around 80 of Washington County's senior citizens.
But Smith points out the program delivers more than food.
“Our Meals On Wheels delivery volunteers spend time with the clients and develop friendships with the people they serve," she explained. "For some rural clients, their volunteer driver may be the only person they have interaction with all day. Our drivers are a vital resource for helping keep a welfare check on our seniors."
Smith stated meals are funded through the USDA C2 meal program, which is part of the Older Americans Act.
"Funding has really come down over the last two years," she said. "This year, we received about $35,348. Last year, it was $46,573, and we got $59,609 in 2012. We're just steadily dropping."
The agency's recent "Tables of Purpose" benefit dinner and "2 Wheels for Meals" fundraiser hosted by the Unity Faith Riders are among efforts to assist the meal program. The agency also received a $3,500 grant from the Presbytery Of Florida. Still, their
expenditures remain about 8% over meal cost.
Despite the nearly $25,000 in funding cuts the agency has seen since 2012, Smith says the council is doing its best to service those in need.
"We're taking some drastic measures, and that's why you're seeing so many fundraisers to benefit the council," Smith said. "We hope to get names off that waiting list."
For more information about how to help the Washington County Council on Aging, contact Kim Drummond at 638-6231.