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As a part of the Meals-on-Wheels program, Roman Horejsi, left, delivers a lunch meal to Tom Stetzler at his Park Rapids apartment. (Riham Feshir / Enterprise)

Meals-on-Wheels program faces deficit

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Meals-on-Wheels program faces deficit
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Hubbard County senior meals programs, like Meals-on-Wheels, have been losing government funding and are facing a $20,000 deficit this year.

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So the Hubbard County Senior Nutrition Advisory Council stepped up to ease some financial woes and help keep the programs alive.

Saturday, Dec. 12 will kick off what the council hopes will become an annual community event that gets people together to celebrate the holidays and at the same time raise funds for the Meals-on-Wheels program.

"Taste of Christmas" invites all area residents and visitors of all ages to the Park Rapids American Legion Club next Saturday for a cookie walk, picture story time with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause and a Scandinavian Christmas buffet dinner with musical entertainment.

"We were looking at something that would kind of be a win/win situation," said Gary Walpole, chair of the Senior Nutrition Advisory Council.

The senior nutrition programs consist of meals served at dining halls located at senior centers and senior apartments, in addition to home deliveries.

The programs are coordinated by Lutheran Social Service (LSS), which since 2003 has lost government funding around the region.

Darlene Morgenstern-Loch, the region's assistant director for LSS, said one reason the senior nutrition programs' budget declined is because many of the people served are low income who can't afford to pay the suggested $3.50 to $6 donation.

"Many people aren't even able to pay the minimum," she said.

Additionally, the state government distributes funding around the state based on population, giving more aid to the metro area where more minorities reside, Morgenstern-Loch said.

But the programs have been utilized a lot more this year, which cut the shortfall from about $34,000 last year to $20,000 this year.

"The more people use the program, the better it is," Morgenstern-Loch said. By doubling the number of meals served at any one location for example, LSS saves money on the employees' pay.

Efforts to raise funds for the senior nutrition programs will continue at the Taste of Christmas event that will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12.

Thielen Motors has donated a 1996 Buick LaSabre as the top ticket item for a raffle that's part of the event. The second prize is a 1022 Ruger Rifle and the third is $100 saving bond.

Raffle tickets are sold at area businesses including Beagle Books, J&B and Delaney's.

Here is the Taste of Christmas schedule of events:

Cookie walk: 1 p.m. until the cookies are gone.

Silent auction: 1 to 6 p.m.

Raffle drawing: 6 p.m.

Live auction: 7 to 8 p.m.

Picture story time with Mr. and Mrs. Clause: 1 to 8 p.m.

Face painting: 1 to 4 p.m.

Scandinavian buffet dinner featuring Swedish meat balls, baked ham, scrapped potatoes, glazed or seasoned carrots, red cabbage, rolls, frosted brownies and pumpkin bars with coffee, apple cider and juice: 4 to 7 p.m. Tickets for the dinner are $10 for adults and $7.50 for children. Dinner is free for ages 3 and under.

Musical entertainment: 3 to 5 p.m.

"This is a fundraiser that we're putting together hopefully to not only benefit the senior programs but that can become a community celebration as well," Walpole said. "The senior nutrition programs provide a real significant service for the seniors who otherwise may not have nutritious meals.

"It provides a place for seniors to come together and just be able to visit so they don't have to be alone."

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