LEWISTON – For the first time anyone can remember at SeniorsPlus, the Meals on Wheels program has had to initiate a waiting list for those asking for help.
And it’s a long waiting list.
Eighty-eight people who qualify for the federally-funded program as home bound and living in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties have been placed on the waiting list.
It’s something, Pam Allen, executive director of SeniorsPlus said, she has not seen.
“The federal funding has leveled off over the last two or three years, but the price of food and fuel has gone up,” Allen said. “It’s hard; these are people who need our help.” The program operates on a first come, first serve basis.
“When someone goes off the program, new people can get on the program,” she said.
The agency has tightened its belt by cutting jobs where they can and trying to find more efficient delivery routes in order to save fuel. The meals are all delivered by volunteers.
“We’re caught in the middle without having increased funding but the prices keep going up,” she said. The agency holds fund raising campaigns throughout the year. In December the annual fund raising campaign is held and then there’s the March for Meals campaign which raises money specifically for the program. But even the generous private donations are down when times get tough for everyone.
“We’re in a constant box. We’re always trying to raise money, but limited to how much time we can spend doing it,” Allen said. She believes the people on the waiting list are evenly distributed, in that, areas with a high population have seen a proportional rise in the number of people who are requesting to be put on the program.
The federal funding freeze, which includes the Meals on Wheels program, is expected to remain in place through to March 2009. Allen said that donations are always welcome. Those wishing to give can send their donations to: SeniorsPlus – Meals on Wheels Program, P.O. Box 659, Lewiston, Maine 04240. The contribution is tax deductible and a thank you letter will be sent.