The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, May. 18, 2022

Manor partners on senior meals

CINDY WOOD/independent feature writer

Eat your vegetables. It’s what your grandmother always told you, and it’s good advice.

According to the Ohio Department of Aging, eating healthy is the key to looking and feeling good, especially for senior citizens. Staying active and eating well are key components of aging well, which makes nutritional programs such as Meals on Wheels and congregate meal sites for seniors vital to communities.

For over 30 years, the Van Wert County Council on Aging has served as a host site for a congregate meal program, which offers a hot, nutritious meal to senior citizens age 60 and above. For many seniors, it’s a chance to get out of their homes and enjoy a hot lunch at an affordable price.

“I like that I’m able to have a nice lunch, and talk with some of my buddies at the same time,” said Bob Lybarger, who patronizes the meal site at the Van Wert Senior Center. “And all they ask is a two-dollar donation for the lunch, which is really beneficial to any senior who might be living on a fixed income.”

Currently, Lock Sixteen caters the meals, which are delivered hot and fresh to each meal site Monday through Friday. Due to severe funding cuts, however, the meal site program experienced some limitations during 2010.

“Previously, we had been able to accept new clients into the program at any time, but during the summer, we heard there would be some restrictions coming,” said Council on Aging Office Manager Therese Marshall. “Essentially, we started having to turn people away who hadn’t eaten at the site during the previous two months. We hated turning people away, but we really had no other option.”

Enter the Van Wert Manor, which recently partnered with the COA to begin catering the meals for seniors. The partnership has benefits for both entities.

“By partnering with the Manor, we will now be able to allow more seniors to come in and have a meal,” Marshall said. “I know our meals mean a lot to many of our seniors who don’t cook for themselves.”

For the Van Wert Manor, it’s a way to further its mission of service to others and giving back to the community.

“We are doing this for a simple reason,” said Van Wert Manor Administrator Jacque Welch. “There are many seniors who are friends of the Manor, and many of them come to visit their friends who are here for rehab or long-term stays.

“Some are even graduates of our rehabilitation program,” Welch added. “It was a simple answer of  ‘of course, we will do whatever we can within our means to assist our neighbors.'”

The Manor is located just east of the Van Wert Senior Center, which will make delivery of the meals convenient and easily accessible. Aside from the menu, there will be minor changes to the program, Marshall said, adding that, previously, a meal was available for only a donation.

“Which meant seniors could come to the meal site and donate only what they could afford,” Marshall said. “But many of our seniors are accustomed to donating two dollars for the meal, and the Manor has really stepped up to the plate by offering the meals at two dollars each.”

That’s a welcome relief for many of the seniors who enjoy the meal site. While attendance varies according to menu choice, weather conditions or activity schedules, the Van Wert Senior Center averages 35-40 clients daily for the meal site.

“Because of the limitations placed on us in 2010, our count has gone down, obviously,” Marshall said. “But we’ve turned down so many requests for a meal in the last three months that I’m sure that number will go back up after the first of the year.”

Beginning January 3, 2010, meals will be catered by Van Wert Manor and will be served at 11:15 a.m., Monday through Friday. Meals will be available for $2 to senior citizens age 60 and above. A reservation must be made by 3 p.m. the previous day.

“Besides the age, there are no other criteria to receive a meal,” Marshall said. “If you’re 60 or over, you can get a hot, nutritious lunch for just two dollars. That’s almost unheard of in this day and age.”

For seniors like Barb Williams, who has been a patron of the meal site for nearly 15 years, it’s a chance not only to get a good lunch at a decent price, but a way to get out of her house and socialize with her friends.

“Everyone is so friendly and the food is good,” Williams said. “We enjoy coming to the senior center, and it’s nice knowing there’s an agency here in Van Wert that is looking out for us senior citizens.”

Juanita Cross of Van Wert has been a consumer at both the Van Wert Senior Center and Van Wert Manor, where she stayed briefly for rehabilitation. Cross said she’s eaten meals at both facilities, and was nothing short of impressed.

“I think it’s going to be a positive outcome for both facilities,” Cross said. “They both have offered very good meals for very good prices, and it’s great to get out, have a nice meal, and socialize with my friends. I really applaud the Van Wert Manor, which has always been a strong supporter of the senior citizens in this community.”

According to the ODA, approximately 116,000 Ohioans benefit from community nutrition programs, which are provided via $54 million in funding from federal, state and local sources. A stagnant economy and budget cuts, though, have jeopardized senior services.

“We’re doing everything we can to combat the economy and the massive funding cuts we’ve experienced here in senior services,” Marshall said.

Over the course of the past two years, the Council on Aging has lost the entirety of its state transportation funding, as well as 100 percent of its federal Title IIIB funding, which provided for services such as chore and transportation. The chore program offers summer lawn care and maintenance to senior citizens on a donation basis.

“Rather than cut the chore program out completely, we are still offering it, but we did have to start charging seniors a nominal fee, only to cover our costs,” Marshall said, adding that transportation remains the agency’s most-requested service.

“Even though we’ve experienced massive cuts in transportation funding, we’ve been able to continue our services with very minor modifications,” Marshall said, adding that the only service that was actually cut was transportation to beauty salons. “Medical transportation remains our number one priority here, and we had to prioritize, so we did elect to cut our trips to beauty appointments and concentrate on getting seniors to the doctor or grocery store.”

Representatives of the Council on Aging and Van Wert Manor are looking forward to the new venture, and are excited to get the program back up and running.

“Although this does represent more responsibility on our Dietary Department in making the additional meals, we’re very excited to be a part of this project and we know that doing this will impact the lives of many,” Welch said.

For more information on the meal program, contact the Van Wert Senior Center at 419.238.5011.

POSTED: 12/09/10 at 11:32 am. FILED UNDER: News