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Southtowns Meals on Wheels service to change, starting this January

SPRINGVILLE — For the past 13 years, Southtowns Meals on Wheels has operated as an independent consortium in the towns of Colden, Sardinia, Holland, Boston and Concord, feeding the residents of those communities separately from the home meal program that has historically serviced the rest of Western New York. According to Concord Town Supervisor Gary Eppolito, the board of directors of the SMOW organization got county funding to help out, and each town’s coordinator would help make sure the meals got to the people who needed them. As of Jan. 1, 2014, that will all change.

“We became a victim of our own success,” Eppolito said.

“The [Erie] County Senior Services chose to force us into a competitive grant basis, and essentially, because we do not have a fund-raising mechanism in place, chose to award the program to WNY Meals on Wheels.”

Eppolito said that it was “no big surprise” that the funding ran short this year, but that the $15,000-20,000 was high for that organization and “we sure as heck didn’t have the money to hire a grant writer.”

In late July, the county notified Eppolito that the consortium’s grant application had been rejected and awarded to Western New York Meals on Wheels, instead.

Erie County Department of Senior Services Commissioner Randy Hoak said that the grant was awarded to the program that presented the best application and had the most resources to enact it.

He noted that the way service is provided and the quality of service will not change.

“We know people count on these meals and we are working together to make sure they get what they need,” Hoak said.

In all Meals on Wheels programs, regardless of which entity supplies them, people 60 and older who cannot shop for or prepare their own meals may be eligible for meals to be delivered to their homes, five days a week. Individuals can request service by calling 822-2002 to initiate an in-home evaluation for meals, as well as any other benefits or services for which the person may be eligible. A doctor’s note specifying any dietary restrictions must be provided.

A referral for home-delivered meals may be made, after the in-home visit is completed. When service begins, volunteers will deliver two meals, around mid-day, on Mondays-Fridays. The menu is planned by registered dieticians to provide two-thirds of the recommended daily adult nutritional requirements, according to the MOW statement of service. A donation is requested, from those who are able to afford it.

“The big concern is that Meals on Wheels is supposed to get the meals from the commissary to people’s homes in under two hours. Theirs is in South Buffalo, and our coverage is 35-plus miles. I don’t know how it’s possible.”

The Springville Concord Elder Network stepped up to the plate and agreed to run the program for the town of Concord, but Eppolito said that he “doesn’t know what the other towns are going to do.

“We’re thinking of going to a fee-for-service program, work out a contract with [Bertrand Chaffee Hospital], something.”

Eppolito noted that Bertrand Chaffee Hospital had been providing meals for SMOW, but will no longer be taking care of that service.

Hoak explained that the contracts were awarded based on a variety of factors, including the ability to provide service to its constituents, cost, fundraising capabilities, visibility and a number of other criteria.

“Our grant application wasn’t as strong as others. Those five towns didn’t have the fundraising abilities that Western New York Meals on Wheels has. It’s frustrating, because when you donate to us, that money all gets served out. If you donate to WNY Meals on Wheels, that money doesn’t come back to Concord. Now, those five towns, without staffs, will have no funding. In the past, we’ve each put up funds, best we can. Now, we’re just out of business.”

Eppolito said that Concord’s allocation to that program will go to other programs in town. In the months leading up to the change in service, the town of Concord, SCENe and Erie County Department of Senior Services will be providing more information on the switch and whether it will affect service to residents in the current Southtowns Meals on Wheels coverage area.


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