More than 800 Wichita seniors are fed a hot lunch on weekdays as part of Meals on Wheels. Federal sequestration could reduce funding for the program but not the bond that forms between volunteers and clients.
Nancy Hindle, 90, lives alone in a west Wichita apartment; she has been a widow the past three years. She has family in the area helping her with daily needs, but cooking a meal is a difficult task.
"I got so I couldn't put things together," says Hindle. "I have arthritis real bad. I don't ever use my oven if I'm by myself."
Senior Services of Wichita administers the Meals on Wheels program. Sherri Flippo, the social services director for the agency, says they offer clients more than just food.
"We see so many individuals in the city who perhaps don't have anyone else checking on them," says Flippo. "And they'll say to the volunteers, 'You know, it's so nice for you to come by or I wouldn't see anyone all week long,'" she says.
Marlin Fredrick has been delivering meals to Nancy and others in Wichita for about 10 years. He is a retired school teacher and sees Meals on Wheels as an important service for seniors, especially with an aging population.
"Our generation is getting older and older," says Fredrick. "I think in the years to come, it's going to have to be expanded just to meet the needs of people like me."
Fredrick says it is only a matter of time before he too will need Meals On Wheels.
The organization serves a 250,000 meals in Wichita yearly and funding for those meals comes from several sources, including federal, state and county.
Alkire says Senior Services isn't allowed to charge for the meals, but some clients do make donations.
Meals on Wheels in Wichita has never cut a client or put someone on a waiting list due to a financial shortfall. Alkire says it's hard to figure the impact of sequestration but funding cuts for the program could range between 8 and 20 percent.
"As we all know, public funding is very precarious right now," says Alkire. "We are now under the sequestration, which is going to affect our federal dollars, which could affect our state dollars."
Sherri Flippo says money is always the most important thing, but they also consider volunteers "as good as gold."
She says a couple of big snowfalls and a high flu rate presented some challenges for keeping volunteers this winter.
"We've had a lot of people out temporarily, or some unfortunately that have developed other health problems and had to discontinue for awhile, so we constantly really need to recruit volunteers," says Flippo.
More information on volunteering or requesting meal delivery is available at Senior Services of Wichita.