Meals on Wheels: Food program is major effort for senior center

Friday, November 24, 2017
Doniela Fletcher packages up leftovers from the Carroll County Senior Activity and Wellness Center’s Thanksgiving Dinner on Tuesday for the Meals on Wheels program, which provided 32,663 meals to local seniors last year.
Photo by Tavi Ellis/Carroll County News

The Meals on Wheels program is making sure no senior goes hungry over the holidays.

Carla Mann, director of the Carroll County Senior Activity and Wellness Center in Berryville, said the Meals on Wheels program is the biggest service the center provides.

“At the senior center, we are here to help seniors with things people deal with as they age,” she said. “It could be socialization and depression, mobility, nutrition or transportation. We serve breakfast three days a week and lunch five days a week at noon. We also have bus routes all over the county that pick seniors up from as far as Osage and bring them to the center.”

Mann continued, “The biggest thing we do is kind of behind the scenes. Our Meals on Wheels program covers the whole county.”

While the senior center will be closed on Thursday and Friday, Mann said Meals on Wheels will ensure that seniors who were unable to attend the center’s Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday still get to take part in the holiday.

“We will deliver frozen meals for those two days,” Mann said. “We will have turkey we freeze. We try to do the seniors we know won’t have anyone visit and won’t be leaving the house for Thanksgiving. We try to give them those turkey dinners, and, if they attended the senior center’s Thanksgiving meal, then they get Thanksgiving dinner two times.”

After serving the Thanksgiving meal hot at the senior center, she said the staff packs up the leftovers and freezes them for the Meals on Wheels program.

She said Meals on Wheels has hot meal routes in Berryville, Green Forest, Eureka Springs and Holiday Island. For areas outside of city limits, she said the program provides frozen meals.

“We also provide frozen meals for the weekend for seniors who need them,” Mann said.

The fiscal year for the Meals on Wheels program runs from July 1 to June 30. Within that time period last year, Mann said the program provided 32,663 meals, which does not include seniors who eat at the senior center.

“That number also includes the emergency meals we do,” she said. “We do shelf-stable meals

for seniors in case they lose power or the road conditions are too bad for Meals on Wheels to deliver to them. They have those meals to fall back on.”

Last year, Mann said, Meals on Wheels served 1,894 meals past its contract.

“We didn’t get any funding for those outside of what was donated by the seniors,” she said. “We suggest a $3 donation for most seniors. Not all seniors can afford to pay that per meal, and that’s where we need the extra funding.”

The center also receives funding from the county, and Mann spoke briefly to the quorum court on Monday to thank justices of the peace for their help with funding.

Meals on Wheels pursues grants and holds fundraisers in order to provide additional meals, she said.

“Our thrift store on the Berryville Public Square also supports that,” Mann said. “It also helps support the program we do in the summertime to feed children who are at risk of hunger while school is out. We do about 80 of those meals a day in the summer.”

The Giving Garden at the Berryville Community Center has also been a great resource, she said, because it provides the seniors on the Meals and Wheels program with fresh vegetables.

“We’re really benefiting from that,” Mann said. “It’s wonderful to be so incorporated in different areas of the community.”

Thanksgiving is not the only holiday where the senior center does something special for those in need, she said. For Christmas, she said the senior center staff does a “Santa for a Senior” program.

“We talk about the seniors in the community who use Meals on Wheels,” Mann said, “and make a list of the ones we know won’t have anybody for Christmas, had a significant loss or are struggling through a difficult time in their lives and try to do something special for them.”

All of the seniors on the list for this year’s program have already been taken care of, she said.

“Most people don’t realize we do that because we don’t really advertise it,” Mann said. “All of this is done because I have really great staff here. It’s wonderful. I’m thankful that we have who we have here.”

She also thanked the Domestic Divas Club, whose members make crafts every holiday for the Meals on Wheels clients.

“So for different holidays through the year, we are able to deliver handmade little crafts to our clients,” Mann said. “It means a lot to the people on Meals and Wheels to receive those. The Domestic Divas are a really great group.”

She said there are always opportunities for volunteers at the senior center. Anyone interested in volunteering can stop by the senior center at 202 W. Madison Ave. in Berryville or call 870-423-3265.

“We have several areas where we need volunteers, specifically the thrift store,” Mann said. “We’re always looking for volunteers.”

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