Ormond Beach's Gale Lemerand has committed to donate $100,000 to the Council on Aging ... but only if the community does it first.
BY WAYNE GRANT | CONTRIBUTING WRITER
There are a lot of reasons Ellen Money travels from her Ponce Inlet home to Ormond Beach so often to volunteer for the Council on Aging's Meals on Wheels program, and none of them are selfish.
"I get to pay it forward," Money said. "The Council on Aging did a lot for my dad. ... And I walk away with a smile on my face. I feel like I’m honoring (him).”
But volunteers like Money may have fewer meals to wheel around the city next year, due to federal budget cuts to the Older Americans Act. The council has also had to cut a day of operation from each of its seven locations throughout the county for congregate dining, where meals are served cafeteria-style to seniors.
The reduction displaces 300 seniors who currently attend these dining events, Cathy Coates, the council's marketing director, said.
One local philanthropist has stepped up to combat the reductions, though. Through a drive called the Meals Match Challenge. Ormond Beach entrepreneur L. Gale Lemerand has offered to match the contributions of Volusia County residents to the Council on Aging through July, up to $100,000.
According to Shari Day, the council's public information officer, a funding boost wouldn't just save programs, it could also allow the council to serve seniors currently on its waiting list of 2,500.
But food is not the only thing seniors get from Meals on Wheels, says Greg Longstreth, dining site manager at the Ormond Beach Senior Center.
“A big part is the opportunity to socialize,” he said. ‘Many of them live alone and those who attend the congregate dining at the center get to interact with others. For our Meals on Wheels clients, the volunteer may be the only person they see all day.”
Since many clients don't have relatives nearby, Meals on Wheels volunteers also check in on their health and can report any problems. Recently, a volunteer called 911 when a person was having trouble breathing.
Coates calls the pledge “wonderfully exciting” — and not only because federally funded nonprofits rely on private donations for grants.
“We’ve had large donations before,” Day said, “but this one is community-driven. We have not really had a community drive, asking for donations.”
Another Meals on Wheels volunteer, Mimi Kuhl, of Ormond Beach, stressed the importance of the program.
“For some people, this is the main meal of the day,” Kuhl said. “We’ve even starting to take pet food to people because we found that some people were giving their meals to their pets.”
Angelina Grimaldi, 81, has been having lunch at the Ormond Beach Senior Center for the past eight years.
“I come for the friendship and to talk to people,” she said. “I’m very grateful for this place, and the people here are great.”
She also likes that the program allows her to stay independent. She has a daughter in New Hampshire, she says, but she'd rather not depend on her.
“I don’t want to become the daughter and she becomes the mother,” she said.
Do your part
To donate, visit www.coavolusia.org and find “Meals Match Challenge.” Mail checks, payable to the Council on Aging and noted for “Meals Match," to the Council on Aging, P.O. Box 671, Daytona Beach, Fla. 32115.
Call 253-4700, ext. 250, or email to [email protected].