(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Despite the rumor that the Sikeston Senior Center's Meals on Wheels program is shutting down, officials insist Meals on Wheels will continue moving from home to home, delivering hot, nutritious meals.
"We're in the process of changing funding," said Yuvone Craig, Sikeston Senior Center administrator. "That's it. We are not shutting down."
The Board of Sikeston Senior Services' decision to turn their operations of the Sikeston Senior Center over to the Semo Area Agency on Aging (Semo AAA) plus recent state budget reductions on the center's funding have sparked rumors of the center closing -- and prompted senior citizens to worry their meals will vanish.
Beginning April 1, the Semo AAA will manage the Sikeston Senior Center.
"We want to cut out all rumors we can," said Sikeston Senior Services Chairman John Garrett. "We'll be working out the details over the next 60 days, but we want to reassure everyone that the Center will not close."
Garrett said lack of funding and management contributed to the transfer. After an audit over the last two years, the board found they were losing money so a decision was made to switch operations to the Semo AAA, he explained.
"Meals on Wheels is very important to us," Garrett said. "That's why one of the requirements for the transfer is that there be no change of meal service for the senior citizens of Sikeston."
Sikeston Senior Center, which is instrumental for supplying daily Meals on Wheels and dine-in meals for area senior citizens, currently serves about 210 homebound people every day and approximately 100 people who congregate daily at the Center, Craig said. Each meal contains a meat, two vegetables, salad, dessert, bread and a drink.
Meals on Wheels serves those living in Sikeston, Miner, Morehouse, Mini Farms, Heckemeyer Acres and The Colony who are physically unable to get out or prepare their own meals.
Semo AAA serves 38 senior centers in an 18-county area. "We make more meals in one day -- 1.5 million -- than the St. Louis and Kansas City areas combined," said Semo AAA Nutrition Project Director Lana Johnson.
Not only does the Meals on Wheels provide hot meals for homebound senior citizens, it's also a way to make sure the seniors are doing OK.
"For example, I just returned from delivering a meal to a Wendell Apartments resident," Craig recalled. "The lady wasn't feeling good. When I got there, she was in bed, which wasn't usual. It took her a while to remember who her doctor was and then we called. If I hadn't stopped in, she may never have gotten her doctor called."
Sometimes the meals are the only contact senior citizens have with other people so it's a very important program, Craig noted. They even come out in cold and icy weather so they can visit with each other, she said.
And although the Sikeston Senior Center and Meals on Wheels will continue to serve the elderly, they definitely need more funding, Craig added. Fund raisers and contributions from the community have helped, she said.
"One of the stoves at the Center isn't working so the Sikeston Jaycees are going to donate a stove," Craig said. "It means a lot especially since we don't have the money to buy a new stove. The United Way of Sikeston has also helped us financially."
Employees and volunteers are scarce, too, Craig admitted. Budget cuts have forced employee layoffs so workers have had to double-up on their delivery loads. And people have quit because of the workload, she added.
Johnson reminded: "It is critical for local funding to continue because what the community donates provides meals for the seniors."
Anyone who would like to volunteer at the Center or make a donation should contact Craig at (573) 471-6047.