Little funds, big hearts help sustain Scappoose Meals on Wheels program
On a Tuesday morning, the Scappoose Senior Centers kitchen is abuzz as a small, mostly volunteer staff prepares about 70 meals from scratch. By 10 a.m., meals are packaged individually, with more than half being sent out with volunteer drivers for the centers Meals on Wheels program.
Meals are delivered five days a week to the citys seniors who are disabled or dont have transportation. The entire operation depends on the fundraising efforts and hard work of senior center staff and volunteers.
Later that Tuesday, men and women congregate at a round table for a game of pinochle after having lunch in the dining hall. The following morning, dawn marks the start of the commute into Portland, as a handful of volunteer drivers pick up excess inventory from area bakeries that gets donated or sold for small donations at the senior centers bread store.
Each weekday, the senior center is utilized by dozens of seniors, but its more than just a meeting space or meal delivery service.
The centers executive director, Julie Stephens, said the facility is bridging a gap in services for many Scappoose residents.
When we deliver the meals, we dont just knock on the door and drop it on the doorstep, she said. We go in, we talk to them, we make sure theyre doing OK.
Stephens has worked for the Scappoose Senior Center for 16 years. She said many of the people who receive Meals on Wheels deliveries dont have anybody visiting them, or are away from their caretakers much of the day. Some are bedridden.
We are the eyes, she said. Oftentimes, we have seen or heard where they need additional help, and were able to step in and help.
She said volunteer drivers have arrived to find meal recipients fallen, hurt, or in need of immediate assistance.
A study conducted by Brown Universitys Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research suggests seniors who rely on Meals on Wheels are significantly more vulnerable than those who dont need the program.
The study indicates 87 percent of seniors who request Meals on Wheels deliveries are physically unable to shop for groceries. Respondents also reported depression and anxiety, as well as health and mobility issues.
In addition to serving and delivering meals five days a week, the senior centers bread shop serves thousands each month, and its medical equipment lending program helps get needed items such as canes, wheelchairs, walkers and other essentials to seniors who need them.
Meals on Wheels is a national program, but its paid for almost entirely by the organizations that carry it out.
People think we run because the federal government or the county or the city funds us and keeps us going, Stephens said. That is not how it works. We are self-sustaining. Thats why we do the thrift store, bingo every Monday and Friday night, we sell quilts ... any fundraising we do, including the Mayors Ball, is used to support the center.
Meals are served to seniors regardless of a persons ability to pay. The center accepts a suggested $4 donation for senior meals, but it also serves the general public for just $5 a meal.
This year marks the Scappoose Senior Centers 45th anniversary. Stephens and her volunteers are preparing for the annual Meals on Wheels fundraiser, which recently underwent a name change to avoid confusion.
It used to be called the Mayors Ball, but some people thought it was a political event, so now weve been calling it the Meals on Wheels Ball, Stephens explained.
Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge has been an ardent supporter of the event.
I have supported the event because it helps an important program the senior center provides, Burge said. Anytime I can help I will.
This years ball takes place April 4 and includes a happy hour, dinner, a silent auction, music and dancing, and a live auction. Despite its name change, the mayor of Scappoose still attends, as do some of the countys other elected officials.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT