Help, funds needed for Meals charity

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

COVINGTON -- The local Meals on Wheels program is one of a multitude nationwide suffering from lack of volunteers and funding while at the same time facing increased gas prices.

The program run by Newton County Senior Services currently has a waiting list 100 names long, said Teresa Williams, Meals on Wheels coordinator and assistant director of Senior Services.

The Newton Meals on Wheels serves 94 clients, providing a hot lunch to homebound individuals Monday through Friday. Some participants opt for a five or seven pack of frozen meals to get them through the week.

Paid drivers who transport seniors to and from the center help deliver the meals, and some volunteers use their private vehicles. But many volunteers are only available once a month and the program has lost several in part due to an increase in fuel costs.

"They want to do it, but they don't want to do it in their own vehicle," Williams said.

But a lack of volunteers is only a portion of the problem.

"Even if I got more volunteers, the meals would still have to be paid for," she said.

Though the need for Meals on Wheels is increasing as more people struggle to make ends meet, funding is not. Williams said she is using every dime of state and federal grant monies allocated to the program, as well as private grants from organizations like United Way and Snapping Shoals EMC. Medicaid also pays for a few qualified low-income participants. Two individuals are on private pay.

Most of those served are age 60 and older, based on criteria of state and federal grants, although some Medicaid recipients are younger people with illnesses like cancer, Williams said. A waiting list of qualified individuals is maintained by the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission and Williams calls that agency when a slot comes open to get a new name.

Funds have not been cut for the upcoming fiscal year as of yet, she said, but there's little hope the program will get more government money.

Sponsorship of Meals on Wheels clients is available to individuals and groups at a cost of $7 per meal. Anyone interested can call Senior Services at 770-787-0038 or stop by the Senior Center at Turner Lake Complex, located at 6185 Turner Lake Road. Volunteer applications are also available there.