Pocahontas County Senior Program seeks support from County Commission

The Pocahontas County Senior Program is in danger of losing a significant portion of its budget, and AMR listeners might be in a position to help.

John Simmons is the executive director of the program. Simmons said last year the program suffered a seven-and-a-half percent budget cut that amounted to about $18,000, and on top of that, they didn’t obtain another state grant they’re usually funded by.

“Of course that set us backwards and one thing we did not get last year, that we’re accustomed to, is that Governor’s Partnership grant, and that amounts to $10,000 a year,” says Simmons. “And what I use that for is for upkeep of the buildings, in Green Bank and here in Marlinton, equipment replacement as things wear out in the kitchen and whatever. So we did not get that last year, plus the other cut was in the food program in the meals. So anyway, we got hit pretty hard last year.”

He said senior services across the state took a $1.1 million hit, and Pocahontas County is affected more than other counties.

“What happens is it’s not divided equally, because we’re a low population,” Simmons says. “We suffer more of a cut than one of the bigger counties that has more seniors.”

According to Simmons, there are three main services the program provides.

“Of course that’s the in-house meals at the centers, and also the homebound, Meals on Wheels,” says Simmons. “We have 111 seniors here in the county that benefit from that, and that’s five meals a week that’s delivered to their home. Now under the homebound, is where we have the workers actually goes into the home and takes care of the seniors and provides whatever level of care that they need.”

He said the third part of the program provides much needed transportation.

“That’s two different things,” explains Simmons. “We bring the seniors into the centers for lunch and for fellowship with the other seniors, which is very important to them, and of course take them back home in the afternoon after lunch. And of course the other end of it is the medical. That’s really important in Pocahontas County, because we don’t have any public transit. We don’t have any bus lines or not even a taxi in the county. There’s a lot of seniors out there that either they don’t drive, don’t have a vehicle or they don’t feel comfortable driving a longer distance to a medical appointment.”

Simmons said they try to build in recreational trips whenever the budget allows.

“We have some shopping trips, work that in,” he says. “And occasionally an out-of-town trip, overnight trip just for the leisure of the seniors. Of course the more these budget cuts happen, the more we have to tighten up on things.”

Simmons said when the program has a successful year, they funnel everything right back into the program.

“We’re a non-profit,” Simmons says. “We break even about every year, and if we have any excess, we finish in the black, we plow that right back into the program.”

The seniors themselves have taken a part in the protest against the budget cuts.

“What I’ve done is asked all the seniors to write Governor Tomblin a letter in protest to these cuts,” he says. “Now it may not do any good, but if we stand idly by and don’t do anything, we take what we get.”

Simmons is scheduled to address the county commission at its Tuesday evening meeting.

“I’m going to go to the commission and ask for them to support this protest against the thing,” says Simmons. “And I don’t know if that will matter, but then again, we need all the help we can get. We’ll see what happens.”

Story By

Angelo Jiordano

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