Pocahontas Senior Citizens Celebrate “March for Meals”
Every March is designated as a national fundraiser month for Meals on Wheels, and is also an awareness month to address senior hunger in the U.S. John Simmons, the Executive Director of the Pocahontas County Senior Citizens expands on this and on the County’s Meals on wheels program.
“’March for Meals’ is the slogan of the national organization which is Meals –On –Wheels and that’s based out of Washington D.C.” Simmons said. “One thing about West Virginia, the 55 counties here, we all belong to the Meals –On -Wheels Association, and that’s sort of a unique thing. The Meals – On – Wheels (Association) is very critical to the operation. They work with Congress to supply funding through the State to the local senior citizen meal program.”
John is rightfully proud that there is no waiting list of seniors in Pocahontas County’s Meals on Wheels program.
“We were polled by the National Meals – On – Wheels Association a few months ago to find out how many we had on the waiting list for the C-2 home delivered meals” said Simmons. “In Pocahontas County we’re very lucky, we didn’t have any on the waiting list, and we don’t have as of today. When the poll results came back from clear across the United States, there’s over 22 thousand seniors that were waiting on the list to have the home delivered meals. And that’s a lot of senior hunger here in the United States.”
John gives the numbers of meals provided in both the C-2 or delivered meal program and in the C-1 or meals served in the Senior Centers.
“We generally have between 85 and 100 recipients” Simmons says. “and last fiscal year we delivered just about 15 thousand meals. C-1 meals, the in-house meals was a little higher than that. It was around 17 thousand meals that was served inside the Senior Centers.”
John is also proud that while the meals served in many other counties Senior Centers may taste like hospital food, anyone eating at one of this County’s Senior Centers will find something else. John.
“You can ask anybody that’s had one of our meals” Simmons says, “it’s more like home cooked food.”
John went on to talk about how the food is delivered in two hot and cold temperature controlled trucks, one on the North part of the county and one in the south. He also said that recipients of delivered meals are also supplied with “Blizzard Packs” which contain, in addition to food, things like flashlight batteries, and with supplies to last them over weekends.
The Senior Centers in Green Bank and Marlinton are open from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. but the satellite Center in Hillsboro is only open on Mondays and Wednesdays from about 10:30 A.M. until sometime after lunch. The lunches are served at the Senior Centers between 12 and one o’clock, but before and after lunch the Centers are available for seniors to congregate, play games and use the computer. No reservations are needed for lunch and while donations are accepted, seniors are neither required nor pressured into making one.
John points out that one of the greatest needs of senior is for companionship, and the Centers try to meet that need by providing a relaxed and comfortable space for seniors to socialize. Any senior who needs a ride to and from a Senior Center can call and the Center will arrange transportation. In addition, when a group of 4 or 5 seniors want to go shopping in places like Lewisburg or Elkins, the Centers will try and arrange transportation for them.
John talks about one other important service they offer for seniors.
“One of the programs we offer is medical transportation” said Simmons. “We have vehicles in Marlinton and Green Bank assigned to that. We have 4 regular drivers and 2 back-up drivers and just about every day of the week we are pretty well full hauling people for medical appointments.”
Because of the financial problems faced by state government, John says that the Senior Services are now funded at the same level they were in 2008, which is a big cut when you consider inflation. They are also squeezed because of the minimum wage increase that took effect on January 1st will cost the Senior Centers about $35,000 a year. They have 8 full time and 17 part time employees consists of 17 homemakers as well as staff, cooks, helpers and drivers, but John asks anyone who wants to volunteer to help out to contact their closest Center. He also says they will need donations and fundraisers to help keep services at current levels.