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Leila Stansbury dressed as one of Santa's elves at Saturday's Taste of Christmas fundraiser for Meals on Wheels. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)
Leila Stansbury dressed as one of Santa's elves at Saturday's Taste of Christmas fundraiser for Meals on Wheels. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Taste of Christmas event raises money for meals

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news Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

The cost of delivering Meals on Wheels for one year to a senior citizen living at home is less than the cost of one day's hospitalization if that senior's condition deteriorates.

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At a Taste of Christmas event Saturday in Park Rapids, Meals on Wheels administrators and volunteers stressed the importance of the program in the face of drastic federal cuts.

"It's very important to keep people in homes," said Darlene Morgenstern-Loch, assistant director of Lutheran Social Service's Senior Nutrition Program. "The government makes out in the long run."

But Morgenstern-Loch said that mission becomes more difficult in the wake of $35,000 in cuts to northwestern and north central Minnesota counties.

"With the Baby Boomers coming along it will be more difficult to serve everybody," she said.

The Taste of Christmas event, now in its third year, annually raises anywhere from $6,500 to $10,000, said Bob Hansen.

He and wife Sharon have been involved with the program many years.

"We're the only social contact they get in the winter," Sharon Hansen said of many of the clients. Hubbard County serves 149 meals, 45 delivered by volunteers to seniors living at home or people recently discharged from hospitals, she said. The rest are congregate meals served in facilities.

Often times volunteer drivers find a client who has fallen and alert authorities, Sharon Hansen said. Without that daily contact, some seniors would have to move into assisted living.

The program is based on need, not income. Housebound seniors can continue to live at home if they have these supplemental services, Morgenstern-Loch said.

LSS coordinates with local churches to provide drivers that travel to Park Rapids, Laporte, Nevis, Akeley and Lake George.

At Saturday's event, the baked goods went quickly - too quickly for organizer Grethe Kurtzweg.

"Next year we'll have to have more," she said, eyeing the almost barren table 15 minutes after the doors had opened at the Park Rapids American Legion Club.

Besides the bake sale, Nevis seniors donated gift baskets for a raffle and quilts displayed on the circular tables. Area seniors crafted handmade items that were for sale.

Hubbard County Senior Nutrition volunteers are bracing for that first wave of Baby Boomers and hope charitable donations make up for the shortfall in governmental funds.

They are also praying for more drivers this season.

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