12/12/06 — Meals on Wheels could face cuts if United Way funding is reduced

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Meals on Wheels could face cuts if United Way funding is reduced

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 12, 2006 1:45 PM

The Meals on Wheels program might have to curtail its operations if the United Way doesn't make its goal this year.

The United Way of Wayne County is currently at nearly 80 percent of its $1.44 million goal -- almost a month after the annual fundraising campaign usually ends.

And that could mean trouble, Meals on Wheels director Brownie Doss said.

If the United Way does not make its goal and makes cuts in funding, the Meals on Wheels program will have to do the same, she said. The cutbacks would be made by not adding any new clients to the Meals on Wheels list if a previous recipient dies or is placed in a nursing home.

The program currently serves between 325 and 350 people who are elderly or disabled and homebound. Its main source of funding -- a grant through the Older Americans Act and the state -- covers about 250 clients. And that funding source is not going to increase at all, Ms. Doss said.

"We have to make up the difference with local funding," she said. "United Way is a big part of the local funding."

Ms. Doss said there are 30 Meals on Wheels clients who are under age 60 and technically cannot be funded through the grant. They are severely impaired and homebound, trying to maintain some degree of independence. The money to provide their meals comes from the United Way, she said.

One of those clients is a 42-year-old woman who had a stroke and is paralyzed and in a wheelchair. "She doesn't have a way to cook, so she really needs the meals," Ms. Doss said.

Another young client has terminal cancer and is taking chemotherapy. She lives alone.

"There is a great need for us to serve those people," said Ms. Doss. "That's where United Way really comes in."

Last year, Meals on Wheels received $37,874. All donations that are designated specifically to Meals on Wheels go to that program. Ms. Doss said the program receives quite a few designated donations.

"And we count on that money to make up the difference for both our elderly clients and those we cannot fund through other sources," she said. "We definitely need as much money as we got last year to operate at the same level."

In addition to the clients currently being served by Meals on Wheels, there is a waiting list of 200 people.

"The elderly population is just growing and growing," Ms. Doss said.

Some of the Meals on Wheels clients are senior citizens with dementia whose caregivers have too much to do to care for their patients that they just don't have time to cook.

"We definitely need the money," Ms. Doss said. "Providing that in-home service helps keep them out of a nursing home, which costs the county and taxpayers."

But although new people will not be added to the list of clients. those who are currently receiving meals will not be cut, even if the United Way has to cut back, Ms. Doss said.