A five-county Meals on Wheels program is hoping to raise nearly $50,000 dollars by this Saturday. The program is strained by a shrinking budget, and the rising cost of both gas and food.
Meals on Wheels has generally been paid for with federal funds and through property tax mileages for senior programs. But a few years back the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency program started putting some change donation jars at area businesses. Now Program Manager Lisa Robitshek says they need the community to chip in a lot more, as need grows and the budget is being sliced.
Wexford County stopped chipping in at the start of this year. Grand Traverse County has cut it from the budget for next year.
“People that have been in this area for years and years, some people say this is the worst this combination has ever been,” she says of the cuts and the growing needs.
Robitshek had to start a waiting list for the program last month.
“We’ve had 29 people on the waiting list just in the first month. So, if you look at that over a year’s time, that would be 348 in the year,” she says.
Robitshek calls it a “waiting list with a heart.”
“We have a really hard time saying ‘no’ to people when they call and they have so many needs; they’re homebound, they’re frail, they’re in their 90s, etc.,” she says. “So people do receive services for two weeks because, if someone’s getting out of the hospital and they need it right away, we want to be able to serve them. But then they’re on a waiting list after that.”
The group estimates it’ll need nearly $83,000 dollars in private donations to end the waiting list for the next year. So far they’ve raised about $35,000 dollars. The new fiscal year starts October 1st.