By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
You have probably read in the Monticello Express the ordeal the Jones County Senior Dining program is going through. Due to decreased funding, the program is looking at several options in order to keep the program up and running for years to come.
Lisa Tallman, Senior Dining director, said the program receives 60 percent of its funding through the Heritage Area Agency on Aging. Thirty-five percent comes from the elderly waivers (Medicaid), and 5 percent is local contributions from the county and cities that participate (all but the City of Wyoming).
Due to cuts from Heritage, Tallman said she could lose the funding for 3,000 meals. Unfortunately, she won’t know any final details until May as to whether the program’s meals will be cut or not, or by how much. The fiscal year starts July 1 for FY 2014. The final decision in May does not give Tallman much time to budget or put a plan in action.
“It’s all unknowns,” she said.
Right now, senior citizens pay suggested donations for taking part in the meal program, whether they come to a site to dine in or have meals delivered. Tallman said the donations for meals go directly to Heritage and are then divided up among the counties they serve.
“I can only ask so much of the county and city entities for our program,” commented Tallman on whether Senior Dining could ask for more local funding. “I have to find other avenues and resources.”
The Senior Dining program could stand on its own, but Tallman said that would mean fundraising for $25,000-$50,000 a year!
“We have to have revenue,” she said.
While there are grant possibilities, Tallman commented that grants are helpful for a certain timeframe. They have to be renewed and applied for each year.
“Grants are no long term,” she said. “I need committed resources.”
In the end, Tallman is just hopeful that Heritage continues to fund Senior Dining in some way.
“We’re all getting older,” she said. “People will continue to get older. This program keeps seniors healthier, longer and in their homes.”
Tallman said attention needs to be brought to senior citizens and their needs within the community.
Not knowing what’s coming, Tallman is looking at cutting director hours for a few of the senior meal sites/centers throughout Jones County. Tallman said Jody Graff, who is the Monticello Senior Center director, is an asset to the program.
“She’s a huge bonus to the seniors,” praised Tallman.
With a new, permanent place for the senior citizens in Monticello, Tallman said she would like to see volunteers step up and help run the center if needed.
Since Tallman’s visits with the Jones County Board of Supervisors, she said word is getting out there about the needs of the program. While she’s received lots of phone calls from people wanting to volunteer, she said it honestly all comes down to the money.
Senior Dining has meal sites in Olin, Wyoming, Oxford Junction, Anamosa and Monticello. The sites in Olin, Wyoming and Oxford Junction run three days a week, but meals are sent for the residents when the site is closed. Tallman makes sure everyone is taken care of.
In all, about 90 home deliveries are made throughout Jones County, and about 60 congregate meals are served.
With so much publicity about the program and its needs, Tallman said she is “hopeful.”
You can assist the program by purchasing gift cards from Family Foods in Anamosa for $20. Family Foods will then donate an additional $5 on top of that. All of the gift cards go to Senior Dining for their meal purchases. This past weekend, Fareway in Monticello also held a food drive for the program.
To help donate towards the Senior Dining program in Jones County, and keep donations local, contact Tallman at 462-4484.