The nonprofit group Friends of Meals on Wheels is assuring donors that their money will go to feed homebound seniors, but Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young said that may not be the case.
Gail Wingate, president of the organization that advocates and raises money for the county’s Meals on Wheels program, said her donors want their money to pay for food, not salaries and other costs associated with the operation.
“People like the idea that the money goes to feed an individual, and I don’t think the public wants it to go to anything other than feeding an individual,” Wingate said. “All we can say [to them] is that ‘it goes to Meals on Wheels.’ People who donate might have an issue [if it goes somewhere else].... It inspires them to give.”
Wingate said the nonprofit group’s job is to raise money and awareness about the Meals on Wheels program.
“The [organization’s] charter states that,” she said. “That’s why we are in existence.”
Pat Rosensteel, director of the county Citizens Services, which oversees the Meals on Wheels program, said in an interview Tuesday that money raised by Friends of Meals on Wheels will go toward eliminating this year’s $22,000 projected deficit in the program because it is directly related to the cost of the hot and cold meals delivered to each homebound adult.
“It is specifically for the food,” Rosensteel said. “The shortfall is the [cost of the] food. Everything else in the program is done by volunteers, except for the one person that coordinates the program.”
But Young (R) said he wants to sit down with county staff members to see where the funds are most needed before deciding how to spend them within the Meals on Wheels program.
“We’ve got to know the true problem,” he said.
However, Young stressed that he is a strong advocate of the Meals on Wheels program, even offering to hold a fundraiser on its behalf.
County Attorney John Mathias assured him that it would not be a problem because he is president of the board, Young said.
“I offered my assistance,” Young said. “No one has called me back, but I have asked to help.... I don’t think there is any question that the community wants to help.”
In fact, Young said as a young boy he would accompany his father, state Sen. Ronald Young (D-Dist. 3) of Frederick, when he delivered meals.
The total cost of the county’s Meals on Wheels program in fiscal 2013, which ends June 30, is $198,256 — $120,000 of which goes to food.
The program’s funding comes in part from federal and state grants for $49,803, and county government, which provides $118,453. In fiscal 2013, Meals on Wheels is projecting about $30,000 in donations.
The total cost of the program in fiscal 2012 was $182,962 — $15,894 less than this year, according to the county’s budget office.
The average cost of the meals is $50 per week. Meals are prepared and provided by the county-run nursing home, Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center in Frederick, the privately-owned Homewood at Crumland Farms assisted-living facility in Frederick and the county’s Work Release Center.
Rosensteel said it is costing more to run the program because more senior citizens have opted to remain in their homes instead of moving to nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. Seniors are staying in the program longer, she said.
The number of people getting meals has remained at 125 for several years, but the $50-per-week contribution has not because more seniors are struggling to pay, she said.
The program runs Monday through Friday, when a hot meal is delivered at midday, accompanied by a cold meal that can be refrigerated and eaten later.
Participants must be homebound due to illness or physical limitations, have no caregiver to assist with shopping and be unable to safely prepare food. Meal participants are asked to give a $50-per-week contribution if they are financially able.
To help eliminate the $22,000 deficit, Meals on Wheels will suspend delivery on the 11 holidays recognized by county government, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is the first time delivery has been suspended since 2000.
Each meal recipient will be given a self-addressed envelope on a monthly basis as a reminder to contribute the $50-per-week it costs to provide the food.
Rosensteel said the money raised at a Friends of Meals on Wheels fundraising party on Nov. 9 at the vintage home and modern clothing shop, Silk & Burlap, in downtown Frederick, will go toward the cost of the food.
The store has raised $1,224 so far, and donations will continue to be accepted through the holidays.
The next fundraising event for Friends of Meals on Wheels is a pie and cake sale from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 19 and 20 at Country Meadows of Frederick, an independent and assisted-living facility at 5955 Quinn Orchard Road in Frederick.