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Volunteers provide sustenance for shut-ins

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Last year, more than 100,000 meals were served to the elderly in Denton County. Often, this is the only meal that those seniors receive each day and it is often the only contact they have with another person.

“What most people don’t know is that Meals On Wheels receives no government funding,” said Kendra Wagner, community outreach director for Meals On Wheels of Denton County (MOWDC).

“We rely 100-percent on grants and public contributions for our funding. The number of people we can feed is directly the result of how much money we have to provide meals.

“Unfortunately, we have about 40 seniors on a wait list because we can’t guarantee being able to provide meals for a one-year time period. We need that time guarantee to make sure we don’t have to drop someone off our client list because our funding ends after only three or four months.”

The founding nonprofit, SPAN (Services Program for Aging Needs), began in 1974 by a small group of Denton residents wanting to help older people to live independent and productive lives.

Today SPAN’S trained volunteer staff delivers nutritious noon meals to homebound seniors Monday through Friday in Denton County from pick up sites located in Denton, Lewisville, Lake Dallas, The Colony, Pilot Point, Sanger, and Krum. 

“Eighty percent of our clients live well below the poverty line and on less than $600 per month,” said Wagner. “Our clients truly do not have the means to buy the necessities in life. And, what’s becoming a disturbing trend is the number of young children who’ve been left with grandparents who can’t afford to feed themselves.”

Currently, MOWDC is delivering meals to just over 1,000 seniors in Denton County.

To qualify as a home-delivered meal recipient, a person must be: at least 60 years old; genuinely home-bound by reason of physical or emotional health; unable to prepare nutritious meals for themselves or have no one else living in the home who could do this for them; live within reasonable proximity of a meal site; be home to receive meals; and have a completed assessment for home-delivered meals on file in the SPAN office.

This month’s Dining-to-Donate fundraiser allows Denton County diners help feed hungry seniors through Meals on Wheels by simply eating at one of the participating area restaurants.

“If you’re going to eat anyway, you might as well do it where you can help the seniors,” said Wagner.

The fundraiser is being held at several restaurants on three separate dates: Wednesday, Nov. 10, all Denton County IHOP restaurants; Tuesday, Nov. 16, the Carino’s Italian restaurants in both Lewisville and the city of Denton locations; and Tuesday, Nov. 30, the Cotton Patch Café in Flower Mound and Lewisville locations are participating. 

“Diners can mention the Dining-to-Donate fundraiser to their server or bring one of the event flyers to the restaurant,” said Wagner. “People can print a flyer from our website, pick up one from the Lewisville or Flower Mound Chambers of Commerce or see if the restaurant has a flyer available.”

While providing home-delivered meals to seniors is the focus of MOWDC, additional services are included under the SPAN nonprofit “umbrella.”

In 1988 SPAN became eligible for a transportation grant. SPAN currently operates the transit system in Denton County, which includes commuter express and demand/responsive service.

Last year more than 60,000 trips within Denton County were provided to seniors, veterans and persons with disabilities, allowing them to remain as independent as possible and in their home.

Vital partners in MOWDC/SPAN’s success are the more than 500 committed volunteers who are the lifeblood of the variety of services provided local seniors.

“We have a saying that our goal is to insure that ‘yesterday’s children’ are cared for today,” said Wagner.

In addition to home-delivered meals and transportation access, errands/shopping volunteers take a senior to doctor’s appointments, to his/her shopping and errands or do them for the senior. A six-month time commitment is preferred.

Senior Paws volunteers deliver pet food supplements to Meals on Wheels clients one Saturday per month.  Volunteers are also needed to help prepare “pet packs” for delivery each month and to help collect donations of supplies.

Senior Pals visit with a senior friend on the telephone and get together with that senior for monthly outings or a visit at home.

Senior center operations help with lunch or activities at a local participating senior center.

Special event volunteers are needed to assist with fundraising events, health fairs, and more.  Sign up to be on-call when these events arise. Volunteers for large events can register online.

“The next fundraiser will feature a special guest for area children,” said Wagner. “Santa will be in Flower Mound on Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Schlotzsky’s Deli on FM 2499 at FM 1171. There will be a bounce house, face painting and all sorts of other kid-friendly activities and Santa will be there from 9 to 10:30 a.m.”
 
MOWDC volunteers are typically expected to commit to meal delivery at least one day per week regularly, or volunteers can deliver on a stand-by basis. The pick up time is between 10 to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, and the food should be delivered by noon.  Food containers and training are provided.  Requirements for delivering meals include: personal transportation, valid driver’s license, application and criminal history check. 

Meals on Wheels of Denton County/SPAN is located at 1800 Malone in Denton. For Dining to Donate flyers, more information, volunteer opportunities or to inquire about a request for service, visit www.mowdc.org or call 940-382-2224.

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