Meals on Wheels faces tough times

June 19, 2013 

Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect the correct price of admission as $20. Each hand is $5. Also, while people may bring horses to the event, they cannot rent them.

WARNER ROBINS -- Slow donations and cuts to federal grants and other programs have put Meals on Wheels in a bind.

Five days a week, the Houston County Council on Aging/Meals on Wheels program feeds an average of 140 nutritious, lunchtime meals to homebound elderly people in Houston County, said Kenny Weaver, Meals on Wheels executive director.

If more money was there, Weaver said, the group could start chipping away at a waiting list of more than 100 people wanting Meals on Wheels service.

“Several months ago, we were about $30,000 behind budget,” Weaver said. “Through a lot of hard work we’ve brought that down to $10,000 and hope to be on budget in the next month when our fiscal year ends. But that’s just maintaining. It’s not letting us help others who are asking for our assistance.”

Weaver said it was by seeking every available dollar that the gap was narrowed and he hopes a unique fundraising event Friday-Sunday will close the gap further and put Meals on Wheels in a good financial place going into its new year.

“It’s a pretty neat event called Saddle Up for Meals on Wheels being hosted by the Silver Spur Riding Club in East Dublin,” Weaver said. “It’s not a run-of-the-mill fundraiser. It’s actually a poker run on horseback, similar to what they do on motorcycles. Participants have a course to travel and five stops to make where they pick up cards to make a poker hand. At the end, the person with the best hand wins."

It costs $20 to get in for the weekend. Each hand is $5.

Weaver said poker run winners will get horse-related prizes supplied by McDonald’s Horse Supply, an event sponsor. But he said the poker run is only part of the weekend. He said those coming can bring horses to ride on the facility’s 1,100 acres, and there will be live music, food and other things for people to do, including camp for the weekend -- there are camp/RV hook-ups available -- and enjoy the location’s four ponds. Camping is $10 per night.

All proceeds go to feeding Meals on Wheels clients. Weaver said it costs about $3,000 a year to provide meals to an individual. Meals on Wheels, which has been active in Houston County since 1977, depends on volunteers to prepare and deliver meals.

“We serve people who are in great need and a high nutrition risk,” Weaver said. “They’re people who can’t get or prepare food themselves and who generally have other physical needs, too. At our height, we served 158 meals a day.”

Weaver said most meals are free, though 14 people participate in Meals on Wheels’ pre-pay meals program for meals at cost.

“The people we’re serving are senior citizens who’ve made their contribution to the community through the years and now need help,” he said. “It’s an economical way to help because if they had to go to a nursing home the government cost in financial aid would be around $50,000 versus our meal costs of $3,000. It’s a savings, and it’s a way of paying back those who’ve reached a certain age and can still live on their own if they can just get help with meals.”

Weaver said in addition to needing funds to meet Meals on Wheels needs, the agency is also always looking for volunteers to help as “friendly” meal deliverers who can carry meals and be a bright spot in clients’ days. For more information on the Saddle Up for Meals on Wheels event or becoming a Meals on Wheels volunteer, contact Weaver at 396-3277 or kensmuse@gmail.com.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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