The St. Clair Senior Center has been providing its Meals on Wheels program to area seniors for about 30 years, and the program still is going strong.
However, Administrator Mary Baldwin said assistance is needed, both financially and with manpower.
“The meals on wheels is very dear to my heart, I cannot say that enough” Baldwin told Senior LifeTimes. “But we need help with delivering meals all the time, and the funding is always an issue.”
The senior center, 310 Park Ave., which also doubles as St. Clair’s community center, opened in 1983. The meals on wheels program also started at about that time, Baldwin said.
“We provide a hot meal to homebound seniors 60 years or older,” Baldwin said. “We are reaching out to the St. Clair area and to Catawissa, Lonedell, Luebbering, Robertsville and Moselle and Anaconda by delivering meals.”
Currently, the senior center uses eight routes to deliver its meals. Seven of the routes are manned by volunteers. Baldwin said about 140 meals are delivered at about midday each weekday.
“We always need help with delivery,” Baldwin said.
The meals are prepared in the senior center kitchen, placed in coolers and delivered by route to the seniors who have requested them. The suggested donation is $3.25 per hot meal. Other options include a five pack of frozen meals for $15 or a two-pack for $7.
“We receive some donations from our clients,” Baldwin said. “They pay what they can.”
The administrator also said that family members sometimes chip in funds to help pay for the meals and that service organizations and others at times donate funds to the cause.
“We are happy with any help we get,” she said regarding the expenses, adding that some seniors can qualify for Medicaid to pick up the food tab.
“There are very strict guidelines that must be followed to submit a client for Medicaid meals,” she said. “Medicaid has the final say if it will approve the client.”
But, the program also provides another essential service.
“We check on the elderly Monday through Friday while delivering the meal,” Baldwin said. “Many of our clients do not have family, and the only people they see are our volunteers. The daily visits are very important as this is a way I know that our clients are eating.”
In addition, Baldwin said if the individual delivering the meals finds a senior in ill health or struggling with another issue, the situation can be addressed.
“If someone falls, 911 can be called,” Baldwin said. “If they are not feeling well, the volunteer reports back to me and then I can check on them to see if they need medical attention. I also can call 911 or their emergency contact.”
Baldwin also said the volunteers even have taken the time to run errands for the seniors, including picking up prescriptions and other medicines at local pharmacies.
“Many of our clients do not have transportation,” she said.
Baldwin said the program’s funding basically comes from three sources: federal monies, state assistance and local donations. The breakdown is 60 percent federal, 30 percent state and 10 percent local, she said.
However, recent changes have been made to that funding stream.
“Do to the (federal) sequestration, changes had to be made in our home delivery program,” Baldwin said. “In March 2013 we had an 8 percent cut in federal dollars, and then again in October we had another cut that forced us to make changes in our home delivery.”
She said those changes included putting several senior clients on the five pack of frozen meals so their delivery was only once a week.
“This change was not a happy change, but we had to cut expenses,” Baldwin said. “Delivering to clients who live far out daily, and with mileage reimbursement, gas cost, vehicle repair ... theses had to be made with the government cuts.”
However, some of the program’s volunteers stepped up.
“The senior center was very fortunate that we had a few volunteers who wanted to made sure the seniors in Robertsville and Catawissa received a hot meal daily,” Baldwin said. “So they got together and now deliver the route daily with no mileage reimbursement.”
As the program continues to work, Baldwin said more assistance is needed.
“Even though we receive federal and state funding, we can not solely rely on just their funding,” she said. “We need donations to help support the program and keep it going strong in our community.
“We will gladly accept any amount of donation from anyone or any group that would like to donate to our center meals on wheels program. We always are need of funds and very much appreciate any donation we receive.
“We cannot rely on government help alone. It is important to check on our elderly daily, and this is what delivering meals is about — keeping our seniors healthy, safe and part of our lives and community.”
For seniors who can get around on their own, the St. Clair Senior Center provides activities that include exercise classes, bingo, music, games, karaoke, specific activities, volunteer opportunities and lunch on Monday through Friday.
The suggested meal donations if dining at the center are $3.25 for individuals over age 60 and $6.25 for people under that age.
“We have an average of about 30 to 35 who come into the center to eat lunch, depending on the day,” Baldwin said. “When we have a special event, we can have 60 to 80 seniors attend.”
For more information about the center, the meals on wheels program or to inquire about making a donation, Baldwin can be reached at the senior center at 636-629-2187.