Congregate Meals worthy of help
Organizations that provide a service to the public generally do better when their volumes increase. But when their revenue decreases at the same time, the opposite is true.
That’s the situation that confronts Greene County’s Congregate Meals program.
Congregate Meals in its most recent fiscal year served well over 20,000 meals to residents of Greene County, most of them older than 65.
While home base for the program is the Greenewood Center in the Greenewood Homes development at the south edge of Jefferson, more than half the meals are of the Meals on Wheels variety, delivered to Grand Junction, Churdan, Scranton and within Jefferson.
Meals prepared in the Greenewood Center kitchen for delivery are transported entirely by volunteers. For some shut-ins, that lunch is the most nutritional meal of their day.
All too often the delivery volunteer is the only interpersonal contact they have that day.
The volunteer’s visit also serves as a check to make sure elderly residents are OK that day as well.
On an average day, Congregate Meals provides a nutritious hot lunch to about 90 area residents Monday through Friday, either at the Greenewood Center or in their own homes.
Once a month, a guest speaker discusses nutrition at the meal site, which also hosts an exercise program and card clubs.
It often provides the noonday meal following an elderly person’s surgery or illness. It’s a tremendously valuable service.
But unless its financial trajectory is reversed, the program will hit a wall.
The Congregate Meals program is funded from federal, state and county sources for its operations. But its federal funding, distributed by Elderbridge Agency on Aging, has been cut by about $25,000 a year, or 18 percent.
Meanwhile, the number of meals served continues to increase.
Local gardeners help out in the summer, bringing fresh produce to the Greenewood Center to bolster the larder. But with government funding on the decline, the program has had to dip into its cash reserves.
That can continue only so long.
Volunteers staff the entire Congregate Meals board and the daily convoy of private delivery vehicles. The program couldn’t exist without them.
But funding help is seriously needed, and the situation grows steadily more dire.
The board hopes that more public money can be found. But regulations for some agencies prevent those treasuries from opening for any purposes other than equipment.
So if Good Samaritan organizations, service clubs, religious groups and other good-hearted folks seek a destination for their funds this season, Congregate Meals offers an ideal target.
The program hopes for enough donations to fund legal assistance to create 501c3 status for Congregate Meals, which could general some tax write-offs for donors.
Greene County’s population skews toward the elderly. It might make sense for local charitable giving to bend that way as well, at least toward Congregate Meals and Meals on Wheels.
And if you want a good feeling, volunteer for home delivery.
You’ll be warmly welcomed by some grateful Greene County residents.