Q&A with Kenny Weaver

March 12, 2014 

City of residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Executive director, Houston County Council on Aging/Meals on Wheels

QUESTION: How long has Meals on Wheels been in Houston County?

ANSWER: We just passed 36 years. We were incorporated in 1977 and served our first meals in February 1978.

QUESTION: You have a major change coming?

ANSWER: We have to move out of our current building on Vicki Lynn Drive by June. We’ve been in a Warner Robins Housing Authority building for five years. But now, as I understand it, several people are interested in buying the building we are in.

QUESTION: Where are you going?

ANSWER: Wayne Lowe of Lowe Toyota is donating a building in Northgate Plaza, so we really appreciate him. Lawyers are working out legal matters now. We’ll have more space but it needs flooring, walls and electrical so there’s work to do. We’ll need donations, materials and people to help us get in. It’s be a great location with great access for our volunteer deliverers.

QUESTION: How many volunteers do you have?

ANSWER: About 100 community volunteers and people from organizations at Robins Air Force Base that commit to covering a particular day.

QUESTION: How many Meals on Wheels clients?

ANSWER: We serve 138 people daily. That number is down slightly due to budget cuts and represents an overall reduction of 6 percent.

QUESTION: Have you cut people from the program?

ANSWER: Six percent represents funding for about 10 clients but, knock on wood, so far we haven’t had to face that lifeboat-type decision to remove anyone. We’re dealing largely with homebound, at-risk elderly and there’s attrition due to people going into nursing homes or, sadly, passing away. We haven’t had to tell anyone, “No, you don’t get any more meals.”

QUESTION: But what about your waiting list?

ANSWER: That’s the thing, we aren’t able to add anyone from the waiting list. We have 80 people on it.

QUESTION: So there’s no growth due to budgets?

ANSWER: We always have an eye on the budget situation because funding has been so fluid since the economic downturn then sequestration. In July of the 2013-2014 fiscal year we lost 3.5 percent then 8 percent in November. That’s national and state funding. The first three years I was here -- I’ve been here almost six years -- we grew about 27 percent then hit this decline. The good news is our community donations have risen. Business donations are down a bit, but individual donations are up.

QUESTION: So the bad news is governmental?

ANSWER: The government thing is really strange. There’s talk about us getting back some of what we lost due to sequestration. That would be about $23,000 and feed about seven people. On the other hand, we’ve heard new funding may be cut, not definitely is cut, but may be cut 8 percent next year.

QUESTION: That makes for tedious planning.

ANSWER: It’s a roller coaster for sure, but I’m actually feeling positive about future funding and thankful that we’re less than 50 percent government funded here now. Most Meals on Wheels programs depend on government funding for 80 or 90 percent of their funds.

QUESTION: Back to people, who’s eligible to receive meals?

ANSWER: It’s a broad category, but mainly amounts to people above 60 with high nutrition risk who have significant physical impairment. They have difficulty getting and preparing food. Physical issues run the gamut from blindness, heart attack, cancer and other ailments. We work primarily with 60 and up but technically removed the 60 barrier a while back.

QUESTION: How often do they get meals?

ANSWER: Five days a week, plus holidays, so we do 260 days a year. It’s all a credit to our community donors and faithful volunteers who are the lifeblood of our program. They make the difference between being a good service and a great service.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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