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Lack of funds cutting back on meals, rides for seniors

Resident says she will miss interaction with volunteers
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A local senior aid organization is cutting back several of its programs due to a lack of 100 days worth of funding. Seniors First is based in Auburn, but serves seniors throughout Placer County. Thirty percent of the nonprofit group’s funding comes from the state and federal governments. While California was without a budget, it was not allowed to release any of those funds. Now that there is a budget, the organization is still waiting to receive its funding. “We are so slim, we don’t have any kind of a huge surplus we can dip into when something like that happens,” said Candace Roeder, executive director of Seniors First. “We have been able to weather the storm every other year, but 100 days has just pushed us to the brink.” As of Friday, the organization’s board of directors made the decision to cut back on its Meals on Wheels program. Starting Monday, instead of delivering one hot meal to seniors five days a week, the service will deliver three days a week. The Seniors First Door-to-Door Rides program used to supply rides for seniors to various appointments, shopping trips and visits to friends and family. Now the service will only give rides to medical appointments and grocery stores. It will now only be available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Auburn resident Irv Eastman, who uses the Meals on Wheels and Door-to-Door Rides programs, said he thinks the cut to the latter service will definitely affect him. “I use it maybe two or three times a month sometimes,” Eastman said. “When I have a doctor’s appointment I call the bus and say, ‘This is when I have an appointment. Can you pick me up?” Now I have to tell (the doctor’s office) Monday, Wednesday and Friday and see if they have an opening.” Eastman said although he doesn’t receive meals every day, he looks forward to them, because otherwise he eats lower quality food. “Right now all I get is two meals (delivered) a week anyway,” he said. “The rest of the week I live on my own cooking, and that isn’t so hot. So, I don’t know if it will affect me or not. I hope not. I have got to have at least two good meals a week.” Auburn resident Della Souza said she uses the Meals on Wheels service five days a week. “I will manage, but I really look forward to the five days, but if they have to cut back, they (have to cut back),” Souza said. Souza said she can make microwaveable foods and sandwiches, but it’s difficult for her to cook herself a hot meal. “I will miss (the service on the days it no longer comes), but I understand they are doing a great job, as much as they can do,” she said. “It’s just something that I kind of looked forward to, and it helped a great deal.” Patrick Totman has been delivering meals to seniors in Auburn once a week for four-and-a-half years. It’s not just the meals local seniors will miss, but also the interaction the program provides. Those who deliver the meals build relationships with and also sometimes perform small chores for local seniors. “(The seniors) are just finding out now, and they are sad,” Totman said. “They are sad about the fact that it is a missing meal, but they are also sad about not seeing people they see on a daily basis.” The interaction with those who bring her meals is also something she will miss on the days when they don’t come, Souza said. “I will tell you, it means a lot,” she said. “Just like I had (Patrick) fix the faucet today. It didn’t take him long because he had the strength, and I have lost all my strength.” Roeder said she doesn’t want any seniors to think they have to give up their Meals on Wheels service, because the organization will not stop delivering to those on its routes. However, it can’t take any new applicants, and there is currently a 40-person waitlist. Seniors First is going to do everything it can to keep seniors fed, Roeder said. “We are going to do our best to try to direct people to food closets and those resources, even though those are already heavily impacted,” she said. “This is happening all over the state of California, it’s not just us.” Roeder said the group is also working on paying back a $200,000 line of credit it used to get through the 100 days. In addition to cuts, Seniors First has temporarily shut down its Information and Assistance, Friendly Visitor and Housing Options programs. Fourteen staff members have also been laid off, including Roeder, who is working on a volunteer basis. Seniors First is cutting an additional 19 staff members’ hours by 33 percent. Roeder said after 30 days the organization should see its state and federal funding again, so hopefully the cuts and layoffs will be temporary. “We just have to come back together and see what we can afford to do,” she said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ----------------------------------------------------- Seniors First What: A nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping seniors in Placer County as independent as possible by offering a number of services. Where: 11566 D Avenue, Auburn Website: seniorsfirst.org For information or to find out how to donate or fundraise: Call (530) 889-9500 ---------------------------------------------------- Seniors First 15th Annual Fall Wine & Brew Fest fundraiser Residents can enjoy some wine, beer, chocolate, food and fun at the annual Seniors First Fall Wine & Brew Fest. The event is scheduled for 5-9 p.m. Nov. 6. at The Ridge Golf Club and Events Center at 2020 Golf Course Road in Auburn. The fundraiser will include local wineries, chocolate aficionados, microbrews and local restaurants sampling a variety of food. There will also be a Food and Beverage Pairing Competition. Midnight Sun will provide live music. Attendees must be at least 21 years old. Residents can participate by helping to sponsor the event, donating a silent auction item and purchasing tickets. Tickets are $40 each or $45 at the door. For more information, call (530) 889-9500, ext. 232.