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Prescott Meals on Wheels offers lifeline to homebound

Cindy Barks/The Daily Courier<br>
On a recent ride-along with Meals on Wheels volunteer route driver Bob Painter, Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson delivers a noon meal to Robert Yahraus.

Cindy Barks/The Daily Courier<br> On a recent ride-along with Meals on Wheels volunteer route driver Bob Painter, Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson delivers a noon meal to Robert Yahraus.

PRESCOTT - For a few minutes on a recent Friday morning, 90-year-old Win Strom got to indulge in one of her favorite pastimes: conversation.

As Meals on Wheels volunteer Bob Painter and Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson stood in her dining room, Strom fit in as much chatting as she could during the brief meal delivery.

She readily acknowledged that the opportunity for visiting is crucial for her.

"That little bit of conversation - for somebody who likes to talk - is important," Strom said. "These are the friendliest, nicest people. They come in and talk a little bit. I'm very grateful."

Along with her 93-year-old husband John, Strom continues to live in the couple's long-time home in west Prescott, and she credits Meals on Wheels with helping them to remain there.

"Without Meals on Wheels, I don't know where we'd be," Strom said. "We have no relatives left; we're on our own."

For volunteer Painter, the satisfaction with the program obviously is mutual. As he drove his 15-mile-long route this past week, Painter spoke fondly of the people he has gotten to know along the way.

For instance, there's Ella Kuhstoss, a former night cook from Wasilla, Alaska, who now lives in a small mobile home in a park tucked away off Dougherty Street.

Because of some handicaps, Kuhstoss said she has difficulty standing and cooking, and she depends on the meals that Painter and other volunteers bring to her.

And then there's Robert Yahraus, also handicapped, who says the meals he receives allow him to stretch his Social Security benefits. "It's a big help," Yahraus said.

For Wilson, one of several City Council members to participate in the recent ride-alongs, the time on the route obviously gave him a chance to talk briefly with people he might otherwise not run across.

"It gives you a completely different perspective," Wilson said between stops.

Pam Hanno, interim director of Meals on Wheels, said that was her goal when she asked the council members to ride along.

"I wanted them to see what's it like, because it's a different experience when you're out there on a route," Hanno said.

Along with Wilson, council members Lora Lopas and Robert Luzius are participating as well.

Meals on Wheels Board President Dave Marston said the ride-alongs also give council members a sense of where the money the city contributed this year is going.

In response to an appeal from the organization this year, the city opted to allocate $20,000 to Meals on Wheels - considerably more than the $5,000 from the year before.

Marston said the city's contribution, coupled with a number of recent financial moves by the organization, helped Meals on Wheels carry on this year. Before that, he said, "We really were scraping by."

Painter, who also serves on the board, agreed, noting, "It was very much hand-to-mouth last year."

According to numbers from Hanno, the need for the service is great in Prescott. Each month, Meals on Wheels serves as many as 5,500 meals to the homebound and to those who show up at the dining room at 1280 Rosser St.

And for people like Strom, the service is a lifeline.

"It makes us feel like we're still part of the world," she said.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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