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Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014

Program helps many seniors

Tuesday, July 9, 2002

(Photo)
Pam Brown, an employee of Sikeston Senior Citizens Center, fills a plate lunch for a member of the local Meals on Wheels program
(photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Pauline Tisdell of Sikeston isn't really able to cook her own meals anymore. It's not because she's lazy, but rather, it's because she doesn't trust herself with the stove anymore.

Tisdell isn't alone. Hundreds of senior citizens in the area are homebound and unable to cook their own meals, and many of them have come to depend on the local Meals on Wheels program.

"I'm so glad of it (Meals on Wheels)," Tisdell said. "It's been a blessing to me. I really appreciate the service, and I just look forward to getting a hot meal every day."

Meals on Wheels is for seniors 60 and older who are homebound, Sikeston Senior Citizens Center Administrator Yuvone Craig said. In order to qualify for the program, they must have no transportation to get to the center or they must be physically disabled and cannot stand long enough to cook a meal.

The Sikeston Senior Center delivers meals to approximately 225 people each day, Craig said. A registered dietitian from the Area Agency on Aging plans the center's meals to ensure the meals are nutritiously filled.

"Meals on Wheels is more than just delivering food," Craig said. "We check on the elderly, too. We're use to their routine so if their front doors are normally unlocked for us, and one day they're not, we're on the phone, calling their emergency contact person."

If someone is in distress, Craig said volunteers will call 911. Every day volunteers ask the people they are visiting how they are feeling. If they say they're chest is hurting, that alerts the volunteers to stop and wait with them for a while, she said.

Craig continued: "If their children are worried about them, we check on them. One time, on a hot day, a lady was locked out of her home. Our driver called the police, and they stayed in the air-conditioned van until the police came."

C.L. McCoy, 68, of Sikeston has volunteered as a driver for Meals on Wheels off and on for a couple of years and said he enjoys the job a lot. "Sometimes we're the only people they have contact with all day long," he said. "It is rewarding and I do get some enjoyment out of it."

McCoy said the center could probably use a few more volunteers because it saves a lot of time when more than one person delivers meals. He explained he usually drives; while the other person delivers the meal, he gets the meal out for the next stop.

"We've had to get paid drivers because of a lack of volunteers," Craig said. "A lot of seniors are still involved in church and in their grandkids' lives, especially since it's summer so they're not as likely to volunteer."

Tisdell said she doesn't know what she would do without the Meals on Wheels program. She said her daughter could probably bring her food a couple of days a week, but that would be too much to ask. Tisdell said she couldn't depend on that because it just wouldn't be right.

Currently, four vans are used for the program. One goes to the Miner, Mini Farms and Heckemeyer Estates area; one to Morehouse; and the other two deliver in town.

Volunteers at the center aren't just needed as drivers, either, Craig insisted. There are many things they can help do. "We have people who count money or serve food. Even if you can help for just 30 minutes, it's still a big help," she said.

The center also offers meals from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for seniors who are mobile and a donation of $2 is requested for each meal. It's run strictly on donations and contributions with some aid from the government. Fish fries, loose change jars and bake sales are among ways the center raises money to purchase needed items, Craig said.

"I'm helping while I can because I know, someday, I might need someone to help me," McCoy said.

For more information about receiving Meals on Wheels or volunteering at the Sikeston Senior Center, contact Craig at (573) 471-6047, or to find a senior center near you, call the Southeast Area Agency on Aging at (573) 335-3331.