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1:36 AM Sat, Nov. 17th

Raffle to benefit Prescott Meals on Wheels

The Daily Courier/Jo. L. Keener<br>
Kristi Marston volunteers in the kitchen serving food at the Prescott Senior Center Jan. 11, and assists the Meals On Wheels program.

The Daily Courier/Jo. L. Keener<br> Kristi Marston volunteers in the kitchen serving food at the Prescott Senior Center Jan. 11, and assists the Meals On Wheels program.

PRESCOTT - Prescott Meals on Wheels is raffling off a 2008 Toyota Prius.

The non-profit organization will sell only 1,500 tickets, so the chances are good of winning a new fuel-efficient car for only $50 when the sponsors draw the winning entry May 15.

The car raffle is a departure for the organization, which normally depends on donations, grants and tax credit contributions to meet the shortfalls in its annual $400,000 budget.

The non-profit organization receives about 60 percent of its budget from state and federal aid, grants and people who receive meals either at home or in the Meals on Wheels dining room.

President Dave Marston said that each year the board of directors must raise the remaining 40 percent, between $150,000 and $160,000, of operating expenses.

"These are tough financial times. Although we had a good start this year, things are nip and tuck. The good news is that we are introducing a significant fund-raising project," Marston said. "We have always depended on donations, grants and tax credits."

Meals on Wheels serves about 75,000 meals during the year.

That includes delivering about 150 meals every day to homebound clients and serving just shy of 100 meals a day in its dining room at the Prescott Adult Center.

This year, Meals on Wheels made a slight modification to the meals.

"About 30 percent of our homebound clients are receiving a specialized menu," Marston said. "We are preparing healthy heart and diabetic meals with a lower salt content and reduced breading."

Marston said operating expenses increased when the organization moved into the new Adult Center. He said the Meals on Wheels Board of Directors expected the increase and the organization has taken small steps to help cover the increase.

When the Adult Center started offering Bingo on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons, Meals on Wheels began providing the snacks.

"This makes us a few bucks," Marston said.

Meals on Wheels and the Adult Center share the operation of the thrift store.

"The thrift store opened about five or six months ago. It is a cooperative effort by volunteers from both organizations. We split the profits," Marston said.

The board president said the organization "is affected greatly by the increased cost of food. Our suppliers are working with us, but the cost of commodities is going up and up. This year, the cost per meal increased 5 percent to 7 percent, and we project the same increase for next year."

Marston said the increase is 10 cents per meal, which at 75,000 meals is $7,500 a year.

"Right now, our biggest challenges, opportunities and needs are financial," said Marston.

He said the organization would not survive without its "great volunteers."

Marston said about 120 people volunteer their time to help their neighbors.

"We have 10 daily delivery routes and about 40 drivers. Volunteers package the meals for delivery and serve the meals in the dining rooms. Our volunteers work bingo and in the thrift shop," he said.

Marston said volunteers donate about 20,000 hours each year. If he had to put a price on the work the volunteers do, Marston said a conservative estimate would be between $200,000 and $250,000.

"That is a tremendous contribution," he said.

Tickets for the Prescott Meals on Wheels "It's Easy Being Green" raffle are available for cash, check, Visa or MasterCard online at www.PrescottMealsOnWheels.com/raffle, in person at the Meals on Wheels office at 1280 E. Rosser St. in Prescott, or by telephone at (928) 445-7630.