By Sarah Mansheim
Thanks to a budget shortfall, the Fairlea site of the Greenbrier County Committee on Aging is cutting its hours. The community center will now close at 1 p.m. The facility will continue to serve lunch five days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Committee on Aging board member Gloria Martin said that the Meals on Wheels program, and the nutrition programs at the Fairlea and Rupert sites, will continue as usual, along with the transportation program and in-home services provided by the agency.
Board members were aware of the budget shortfall last year, said Martin, and after much consideration, decided that the best way to meet the budget was to cut employee hours. Reducing the Fairlea site’s hours was the least painful way to reduce hours, she said, because the facility is seldom busy during the afternoon. The agency chose to wait until after Christmas to cut employee hours to “soften the blow” to affected employees.
Martin said that continuing the Meals on Wheels program, which delivers hot meals to shut-ins three days a week, is crucial, because meal deliverers not only provide those elderly people with a nourishing, hot meal (and a boxed meal for the following day), but that they are able to check up on the people to whom they are delivering food.
“We’ve found seniors in distress,” during such meal deliveries, said Martin. She said that the people who deliver meals have found seniors on the floor and even locked out of their homes during freezing temperatures.
The nutrition sites, located in Fairlea and in Rupert, also provide much-needed socialization to seniors. There, folks can get a hot meal and also check up on each other.
“There is a group of veterans, and they all sit at a table and exchange their war stories,” said Martin. At other tables, ladies chat and other men drink coffee together.
“The socialization is really good for those folks. They kind of watch out for each other,” she said. Oftentimes, a senior will alert a staff member that one of their lunch mates seems unwell, she said, which can provide crucial information that staff members wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.
The GCCA serves around 3,000 meals a month to area seniors through the Meals on Wheels program and the nutrition sites. Last year, the program received about one-third of the usual funding from the Greenbrier County Commission, and the legislature has already alerted the board that there will be no money available from the state this year.
One bright spot for GCCA has been the drop in gas prices; meal deliverers traverse around a thousand-square-miles of roads in Greenbrier County three days a week. And, Martin said, board members are not giving up: they plan to go to the county commission and the legislature and state their case again this year, and will continue to raise funds through other avenues such as the popular spring event, The Senior Prom, an annual dance for senior citizens and other community members.
Martin, who used to be the executive director of the Family Refuge Center, said that the GCCA is not the only non-profit suffering from lack of funding. She said that she’s talked to the people who run the Family Refuge Center and the Child and Youth Advocacy Center, and they’re facing budget deficits, too.
“The most vulnerable members of the community, children and the elderly, are being left behind,” she said.
Martin said that the GCCA gladly accepts private financial and food donations. Call the Fairlea site at 304-645-1978, or the Rupert site at 304-392-5138 to donate. Despite their budget woes, Martin said that they can still add seniors in need to their roster, too.
“If you know someone who needs help, contact the GCCA,” she said.