Program short on meals for hungry seniors across Central Texas
By Christine McCarthy
TEMPLE- Employees and volunteers at Temple Senior Services delivered 181 hot lunches to seniors and disabled Bell County residents on Thursday, but a loss of federal funding and scarce donations won't allow many new in-need seniors across Central Texas to enter the Meals on Wheels program.
The Temple location is one local branch of Hill Country Community Action Association, which simply suggests those who can afford the free meal make a $2 contribution per meal, but even those contributions have plummeted.
Funded by aging and disability agencies, HCCAA lost nearly $47,000 in federal funding, partly because of the state's reallocation of the money in respect to a new Texas census in 2010, according to HCCAA Executive Director Tama Shaw.
"Oh, it's devastating," Shaw said. "It's just heartbreaking to know that the program we've had for over 40 years has come to this problem."
The association is currently serving more than 250,000 lunches this year to people who are disabled, 60 years or older, or a spouse of someone in those groups. The high number of meals is already over the association's budget, and next fiscal year they won't be able to provide 38,000 meals that are needed.
"Sometimes the home-delivered meal participant goes to the nursing home or may pass away. We just won't replace that individual," Shaw said, explaining how the association will deliver fewer meals to homes and senior centers but won't need to kick anyone off the program.
Meanwhile, dozens - possibly more than one hundred - people in Bell, Milam, Coryell, Hamilton and San Saba counties are on waiting lists. At the Temple location, 26 are in line for the service, which Shaw said is about more than just food.
"We've had incidents where we've saved lives because, if [the employees or volunteers] don't come to the door, we have a number we call or we call 911 if we can't get in the house," Shaw said.
If you would like to donate to HCCAA, visit http://www.hccaa.com/home/donate.html or call (325) 372-5167, extension 235. Your donations are tax-deductible, and they can remain in the county you live in or wherever you choose.
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