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Wed, Oct. 16

Volunteers serve 85,000 meals a year

PRESCOTT - Prescott Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver more than 55,000 meals annually to older, homebound residents. Volunteers serve another 30,000 meals in its dining room at the new Prescott Community Center on Rosser Street.

Dave Marston, chairman of the Prescott Meals on Wheels Board of Directors, said it costs about $400,000 a year to operate the program.

Unfortunately, Marston said, the organization falls short of that amount by about $150,000 annually.

He said the organization receives 35 percent to 40 percent of its money from state and federal governments. An additional 20 percent comes from people eating in the dining room and participating in the program.

Executive Director Sandra Skellenger said meals cost about $5.30 each.

She said anyone could eat in the dining room.

"We ask a donation of $4 for people 60 years of age or older, and $5 for anyone under the age of 60. The average donation in the dining room is $2.57 cents. The average donation for home delivered meals is $1.02," the director said. "After all the contributions and money received from diners, we need another $1.50 to pay for each meal."

Marston added: "We have to raise $150,000 each year. We have operated in a deficit for the past few years. The Board of Directors is focusing on fundraising. We will be more aggressive in getting our message of need to the public."

Marston said reimbursements from the state and federal governments are diminishing. At that same time, the program is seeing an increase in the number of people participating in Meals on Wheels.

"The new building has attracted new people to the program. The number of people eating in the dining room has increased 50 percent," Marston said. "Those people help the program because they pay for their meals."

Marston said the new location "has proven to be beneficial. We have a closer working relationship with the Adult Center."

Skellenger said people who come to the Adult Center often stay for lunch.

As the board searches for fund-raising opportunities, Marston said, "The single largest revenue source is the state tax credit program."

Skellenger and the cook are the only full-time employees at Meals on Wheels. Seven other employees work parttime. Volunteers are the heart of the program.

Skellenger said more than 125 people volunteer each week. They pack meals, serve meals, drive routes and register new home-delivery clients.

Marston said the organization is tightening its belt. He said it eliminated a bus program that delivered people to the dining room.

The chairman said four or five people used the service and the organization has made alternative arrangements for them.

Skellenger said the bus program cost $20,000 each year but earned only about $5,000.

Prescott Meals on Wheels began in 1973 as Golden Age Nutrition, as an affiliate of the national Meals on Wheels Association.

Skellenger said the first year it served 12,000 meals out of the kitchen at the Methodist Church.

Golden Age Nutrition changed it name to Prescott Meals on Wheels in 2000.

Marston said community support is vital to the program.

"The truth is, the community is very supportive. However, it needs to know about our needs in order to help. The need is not going away. Every year we need $150,000," Marston said.

Anyone who would like to help financially should donate to Prescott Meals on Wheels, 1280 E. Rosser St., Prescott, Ariz. 86301.

Anyone interested in volunteering should call Skellenger at 445-7630.

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