On Saturday, the Cassville Senior Center will host its 14th annual Miles For Meals fundraiser, which generates funding for the center's meals program. Although Barry Countians have done their part to raise funds for many local organizations this year, I hope that area community members will come out once again to support local seniors.
Over the last year, the Cassville Senior Center has prepared and served or delivered 50,000 meals to seniors in Cassville and across southern Barry County. Meals on Wheels offers nutritious meals five days a week for homebound seniors throughout the area. A total of 16 volunteer drivers provide meals for seniors living along eight routes. Meals are also delivered to homebound seniors living in the Wheaton area. According to Linda Parker, Cassville Senior Center administrator, the meals program provides around 250 meals each day. The center serves and delivers meals to area seniors five days a week. Some seniors also receive frozen meals on Friday, which provides them with nutritious food over the weekend.
Over the last two years, the local senior center has been negatively impacted by drastic cuts in state funding, which is received through the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging. Missouri's Area Agencies on Aging saw their first major cut in state funding in 2009. At that time, senior centers across the state held fundraisers to collect additional monies, and the agency imposed furloughs to cut expenses. Last year, the agency saw a $1.4 million cut in funding, which reduced the Southwest Missouri Office's revenues by $196,000. This summer, Gov. Jay Nixon released a portion of the funding, but the Southwest Office received less than 28 percent of the funding that was cut from the budget last year.
This month, the Area Agencies on Aging could see an even larger cut in funding. Much of the monies used to support the meals program are provided through the federal Older American Act. Although federal funding has been stable in the past, the agency could see a dramatic reduction in those funds due to federal legislators' attempts to reduce the debt ceiling.
The Cassville Senior Center is working to raise $13,000 for its meals program this year. The funds will provide thousands of meals, which cost around $5.11 each. Although homebound seniors and senior center diners contribute to the meals program funding, many seniors, who are living on very tight budgets, are unable to pay the full meal cost. As food costs and need continue to increase, additional funding will be needed to continue to provide meals for area seniors.
This Saturday, as area residents make plans to go out to dinner or take part in a family activity, I hope they will consider stopping by the Miles For Meals fundraiser at the Cassville Senior Center. The event will offer musical entertainment, barbecue meals, a pie and cake auction and a duck race, which children always enjoy. The center's Hoe Down, which begins at 5 p.m., will offer a night of fun and support a program that provides hundreds of seniors with nutritious, affordable meals.