Editor's note: Erath County United Way has begun its 2014 annual campaign. For the next several weeks, agencies supported in part by the United Way will be featured in various articles.
Meals on Wheels of Erath County (MOWEC) and the Erath County United Way (ECUW) have worked together for more than 10 years to help feed homebound county residents. MOWEC served 43,686 home-delivered meals in fiscal year 2012, with local funds helping to provide 30% of those meals.
MOWEC Executive Director Whitney Lee said their partnership with ECUW has really helped catch people who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
"A good portion of our funding comes from the state and federal government," Lee said. "And, with government money, comes a lot of restrictions on how that money can be spent. So for a client to qualify for Meals on Wheels through government channels, they must be over the age of 60 years."
Lee said that makes it hard for people under the age of 60 who are disabled or facing severe medical conditions to find help.
"If I have someone call me about a loved one who is suffering from Parkinson's or a traumatic stroke, but they're 56 years old, I can't feed them using federal funds," Lee said. "That's where local funding like United Way really comes into play. It helps us serve folks who might otherwise slip through the cracks of the system."
MOWEC also uses the local funding to buy liquid supplements for clients who are unable to eat traditional solid foods, delivering on average 600 cans to 20 clients each month. Lee said that's a key service for many clients who are in the late stages of dementia or battling cancer.
With just one more month to go in fiscal year 2013, MOWEC has already served more than 40,000 meals to homebound Erath County residents. Support from local organizations and the community at large is a key factor behind the success of Meals on Wheels.
"We're a small organization. We only have 3 paid employees and the rest is done by volunteers and supporters," Lee said. "There are other organizations out there serving larger counties, that just aren't serving the number of meals we do each day because they don't have the community support."
Lee added that in MOWEC's 18-year history, they have never had to place a qualified client over the age of 60 on a waiting list.
"That's very unusual for the type of work we do. I have never had to tell someone that although they qualify for meals, I just don't have the means to serve them," Lee said. "The continued help we get from private donors, supporters and the United Way is the only reason I can say that. And I'm very proud of that fact."
For more information on MOWEC and services provided or how you can get involved, visit their website at www.erathmow.org or call 965-3510.