Author photo

By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Elderly miss meals as program reorganizes


Last updated 5/7/2024 at 6:26pm

Ninety-three-year-old Mavis Worsham was expecting her regular hot meal on a Monday in late April. Instead, she got an envelope with a questionnaire from the Orange Meals on Wheels.

Worsham's daughter, Karen Wickham, was one of the people complaining, but she wasn't worried about her mother, who is still mobile and has food in the house. "The main problem was there was no coordination," she said about the program. "The service had been great until now."

Others, weren't as fortunate Mrs. Worsham. An estimated 300 senior citizens in Orange County use the local Meals on Wheels. For some of them, it is the only food they get that day and the program's drivers are the only people they talk to.

In addition, another 100 people go to the Essie Bellfield Community Center in downtown Orange to get a low-cost or free hot meal from the Meals on Wheels kitchen. The lunch has become a time for the patrons to socialize and play games.

Wickham said her mother, after two days of no food, received two frozen pizzas in what looked like a "Banquet" box, a reference to a well-known frozen food brand.

On Friday, May 3, the board of directors of the Orange Community Action Association, which oversees Meals on Wheels, called the program "in a time of crisis."

The board made an announcement that long-term operational plans are needed and frozen food is currently being delivered. The announcement was dated May 2.

"While we understand these changes do not meet the high standards we have for Meals on Wheels, Orange, Texas, it is temporary while the Board considers long-term operational changes that will ensure the program is sustainable," the emailed letter read. It was sent from an email belonging to State District Judge Courtney Arkeen, who is president of the association's board.

Orange County Judge John Gothia said Judge Arkeen had talked to him about the program's problems and the county immediately released the $45,000 Commissioners Court had budgeted for the current budget year.

He said most of the operating budget for Meals on Wheels comes from grants disbursed through the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission. Orange County contributes, as does the city of Orange and the Orange County United Way.

Meals on Wheels also holds different fundraisers and gets donations from civic groups, individuals, and businesses. The city of Orange houses the Meals on Wheels commercial kitchen in the Essie Bellfield Community Center at the corner of Fifth and Division in downtown.

Gothia said the county's budget for the current fiscal year is fixed, but he and Precinct 1 Commissioner Johnny Trahan are seeing if the county can up its contribution for the 2024-25 budget.

Wickham said the frozen meals are okay, but her mother is missing the single-serving sizes of milk and juice, along with dessert. The previous meals also were served hot or warm, and were balanced nutritionally.

Mrs. Worsham broke her hip several months ago, but still wanted to live in her home after her recovery. Her daughter, Wickham, said Meals on Wheels was a good way to make sure her mother was getting a hot meal while being independent.

"I was thinking about people bedridden who can't go to the refrigerator and can't go to the microwave," she said about the recent problems with the service.

Gina Gonzales is on the board of directors for Meals and Wheels and also works as director for Optimist Village, a non-profit apartment and community living complex in Pinehurst for senior citizens and the handicapped.

She said Optimist Village is a "congregate site" for Meals on Wheels to drop off a number of meals. The complex has 96 units with 10 handicap accessible. When the meals stopped, the residents pitched into help, cooking gumbo one day plus and red beans and rice another day. It's not the only time the residents pitch in. They've even held their own link and drink fundraiser to help with Meals on Wheels in the past.

Optimist Village is now getting another freezer to store the meals, plus another microwave to help warm the frozen dinners that are now being delivered.

Bridge City also has a congregate site.

Gonzales said the public can help with donations and by volunteering to be a Meals on Wheels driver. The service has also had a problem getting drivers, who take the meals house-to-house.

The letter from the Community Action Board on May 2 announced that Dawn Burleigh had been named interim director of Meals on Wheels and a search for a new executive director has started. The board is working with other staff adjustments and food service providers.

The board apologizes for the frozen meals.

"This decision was not easy, and we know how critical food insecurity is in Orange County, especially for senior citizens. The County community has always rallied together in a time of crisis and this time will be no different. Your continued support is essential to the program's ongoing success," the letter reads.

People interested in helping Meals on Wheels financially or by volunteering may contact the program at the Essie Bellfield Community Center in Orange, 409-886-2186.


Reader Comments(0)


Our Family of Publications Includes:

County Record
Penny Record

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2024

Rendered 05/21/2024 02:52