Free senior meals hang on despite funding woes

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Low income seniors and those without transportation are getting the nutrition they need if they ask for it. ?I just want to do this because this is very important and it makes me happy,? Seniors First volunteer Kat Lombardi-Weeks said. Lombardi-Weeks organizes Rocklin?s daily senior nutrition program, which includes Meals on Wheels, a hot meal delivery to homebound seniors and a senior cafe at Shannon Bay Apartments off Springview Drive. The free lunches are available to elderly Rocklinites Mondays through Fridays. Lombardi-Weeks said some seniors are too shy or too prideful to admit they need help. ?There are a lot of reasons involved. Some of them don?t want to come out of their apartment,? Lombardi-Weeks said. Shannon Bay Apartment resident Carolyn Jordan, who is wheelchair-bound, enjoys meals with new friends. ?They have to get the sugar right. I am a diabetic. That?s how I lost my leg,? Jordan said. ?It?s here for us and we can pay whatever we can afford a month.? The programs that cater to senior?s salt, sugar and nutritional needs doesn?t come without a price, however. The non-profit agency, Seniors First, supports the program with grants, foundations and donations, but the economy is taking a toll on its resources. ?Funding is down for a lot of our programs,? Kerri Walker, Seniors First fund development coordinator said. There is no mandatory payment for the meals for seniors over age 60 or the disabled. This year the City of Rocklin received a little more than $180,000 in federal HUD community development block grants and asked for input from the public on where to allocate the money. With one citizen participating at public hearings held April 10 and Tuesday night, the city proposed its own plan for the funds. The City of Rocklin decided to provide 15 percent of the HUD funds to feed Rocklin seniors using the program. In Roseville, that number is 30 percent, but Auburn does not provide any assistance for Seniors First meal programs. To date, the Rocklin City Council has allocated $20,138 for Meals on Wheels, $7,000 for a homeless program in partnership with Roseville?s Gathering Inn, $57,603 for infrastructure improvements for the disabled and $10,000 for a Senior Handyman Program, which only has enough money to operate for three months of the year. ?We ran out of funds four months into the fiscal year,? Walker said. That means seniors who need help with repairs around the house will have to wait until additional funds are available. ?Unfortunately, we tell them, ?we?ve run out of funds and check back with us later,? Walker said. Despite a two percent decrease in federal funding the city received compared to 2011, the council has approved a $50,000 matching-grant program to spruce up aging downtown businesses through the Facade Improvement Program. But before anyone cries foul, Rocklin City Council member George Magnuson puts it back on the citizenry. ?We only have so much to go around,? Magnuson said. ?We allot it the best we can. That?s why we have those public hearings. It?s hard to be a mind reader.? The city admits there were no public comments made to staff even between the public meetings. Only one resident, Jill Fellows, inquired about the availability of the information to the public on April 10, but did not offer any suggestions. Senior advocates hope more people will come forward to influence the city to better support the programs. ?There are a lot of areas where seniors need help,? Lombardi-Weeks said. ?They?re forgotten not only by the state, and the city but also their families. People are too busy, I guess.? ________ Good to Know Rocklin Federal Grant Allocation Meals on Wheels: $20,138 Homeless Program: $7,000 Senior Handyman Program: $10,000 Business Facade Improvement Program: $50,000