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Monday, April 10th, 2017

Local meals program expanding

Sites opening in Maria Stein, St. Henry and Fort Recovery

By William Kincaid

Robert Pax, left, Mark Steinbrunner, Bernard Hartings and Ralph J. Meyer sit aro. . .

A nonprofit county agency is extending its daily meal program to the southern half of Mercer County to offer both nutritious food and fellowship for more aging citizens.
The Mercer County Council on Aging has long provided discounted meals at its Celina Senior Center at 11 a.m. Monday-Friday for anyone 60 or older. The meal is often the cornerstone of the day at the center, with people staying for cards, bingo, line dancing and other activities.
"Not only is it important that our seniors get a good meal, it's the whole component of being isolated and not having a place to come and socialize," director Sharon Green said about the importance of the daily meals.
Most people served at the center live in Celina, except for bingo day on Wednesday, which attracts some from Coldwater and St. Henry.
Now, Green is partnering with other entities to open satellite meal locations in Maria Stein, St. Henry and Fort Recovery.
"We still have a need," Green said. "We're the Mercer County Council on Aging. We're focusing on Celina - that's not good enough in my mind."
Last Thursday, personnel at The Gardens at St. Henry began serving a meal in the community room and will continue to do so every Thursday at noon.
Working with Briarwood Village, the council will serve meals at The Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics beginning May 3. Meals will be offered at noon the first and second Wednesday of each month.
"We want to make sure that people understand it's open to everyone. It's not just for Catholics," Green said about the site.
Also, a third congregate meal site is planned for the Fort Recovery Library, likely starting in June. Meals will be served on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, Green said. Additional details are being worked out.
Anyone 60 or older wanting a meal in Celina, Maria Stein or Fort Recovery must call the Mercer County Council of Aging at least 24 hours in advance at 419-586-1644. Those wanting a meal at The Gardens of St. Henry should call the nursing home at 419-678-9800, Green said.
All meals are $3, but no one will be turned way, including caretakers or those who can't afford to pay, Green emphasized. Transportation to and from the congregate meals sites is available.
"The largest crisis that our aging population faces is isolation," Green reiterated. "If we can not only feed them a nutritious meal, we can also get them out of the house, having some face-to-face time with some peers."
The council has a limited budget funded in part by the federal Older Americans Act and a $4,000 donation from the Mercer County Civic Foundation.
They are looking for donations to sustain the new meal sites, Green said.
Furthermore, volunteers are sought to help set up and clean up the sites, Green said.
"We really want this to be a community effort," she said.
Green also brought attention to the Meals on Wheels program, in which meals are delivered to needy seniors. Locally, it's administered by the Area Agency on Aging 3 of Lima.
The agency's funding has remained stagnant since the 1980s and is threatened by President Donald Trump's proposed budget, Green noted. The waiting list for Meals on Wheels can be as long as six weeks. People who have been hospitalized or suddenly find themselves unable to leave their homes may be challenged to find meals.
Green said she hopes to provide a similar service but noted she would need donations and volunteers to help deliver the food.
"One of the really wonderful things I've noticed about Mercer County is people really do look out for their neighbors and they want to make sure people have what they need," Green said, pointing to the CALL Food Pantry and churches. "But I want to make sure that we're focusing on our seniors because that is a real need."
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