Eleven hot lunches delivered.

As you continue to search high and low for Christmas gifts that make a lasting impact in the lives of Erath County residents, consider a contribution to Erath County Senior Citizens, Inc. and Meals on Wheels of Erath County.

The organization currently serves almost 300 individuals across Erath County, including the elderly (older than 60 years of age) and those living with disabilities.

"We serve every community within the county," said Whitney Lee, executive director of Meals on Wheels.

For a little more than $70, 11 hot meals will be delivered to local clients, according to Lee, who said one meal costs an estimated $6.50 from preparation to delivery.

"That includes the meal itself and getting it from the kitchen to our client's door," Lee said.

A donation of as little as $30 could provide almost a week of meals for one client or transportation for a month. And $150 will feed one client for an entire month, or 23 clients in a single day.

"Although we do receive funding from the state and federal governments, we rely on local contributions and private donations to keep services going," Lee said, adding that since its formation in 1995, the organization has never had to place a single client on a waiting list. "This is a direct result of the continued local support of organizations such as Erath County United Way as well as individuals, churches and local businesses who donate funds."

Erath County also helps subsidize the local program through monthly contributions, but the organization is still left with funding gaps to fill.

How important is MOW ?

"Our daily goal is to help people stay in their homes and live independently," Lee said. "To make that a possibility, we provide three essential services - liquid supplements, home delivered meals and transportation."

According to Lee, an average of 30 clients per month receive liquid supplements, like Ensure or Glucerna for diabetics. The supplements provide essential nourishment for clients unable to eat or who have problems keeping on weight.

"We tailor the program to what their doctor feels they need," Lee said. "The supplements keep them from losing weight and can help them put needed weight back on."

Lee said home-delivered meals make up the bulk of services provided locally.

"Out of our nearly 300 clients, 205 receive Meals on Wheels," Lee said adding that the service is about more than proper nutrition for the homebound clientele, and provides three main functions - social interaction, peace of mind for the clients' families and nutritional food. 

"One of our qualifying criteria for new clients is that they are homebound," Lee said. "We really want to target folks that aren't able to freely get out of the house on their own, whether it's a physical limitation or a mental impairment. Some of our clients are cut off from the rest of the world. The brief, daily visit allows them to feel connected and form bonds."

In regards to their family lives, Lee said every client is different.

"Either there is no family, they live far away or they live in the county but have to work or manage their own homes," Lee said. "When a loved one receives home delivered meals, the family knows that someone will be there each day to check on their family member, make sure they are doing well and that their loved one is receiving a hot, nutritious meal."

And for clients unable to cook, Lee said the service provides meals that might not otherwise be possible.

"Many times our clients tell us during an initial assessment that they eat peanut butter and crackers, cold cereal or oatmeal, sandwiches  or anything that can be heated in a microwave. There could be a number of reasons for this - they might be on oxygen and using the stove just scares them, they might have arthritis and are unable to manipulate a spoon or knife or they might have conditions with their knees, legs or back that simply makes them unable to stand and prepare or cook a meal."

Finally, Lee said MOW offers transportation services to clients through City and Rural Rides (CARR) by providing up to 30 one-way trips for qualifying clients. She said the service gives clients a much-needed sense of independence.

"So much of their independence seems to get taken away late in life," Lee said. "It really empowers our clients to know that they can go to that weekly hair appointment, run to the store without having to call a family member or schedule a doctor's appointment without having to make sure someone is available to take them. For some of our clients, the only way they get around is through our transportation services."

How to donate

Anyone wishing to make a donation is encouraged to do so at the Stephenville Meals on Wheels office, located at 1306 East Washington Street, Suite M. Contributions may also be mailed to the Stephenville office.

To let that special someone on your Christmas shopping list know you have made a donation to MOW in their name, a gift notification card will be mailed out on request.

"Simply let us know to whom the notification is to be sent and that it is a special holiday donation and we will mail out a card," Lee said.

She also said a monetary donation will go a long way to help local clients well into the New Year, and honorary donations can be made to the organization throughout the year.

Volunteer today

For individuals working on a tight budget but still looking to spread some cheer this holiday season, Lee said volunteering is a great way to give back.

"We depend on volunteers to deliver meals," Lee said, adding that drivers are currently needed to serve Stephenville routes.

She said routes can be shared among members of other organizations looking to log community service hours. For example, the Stephenville Zonta Club currently offers assistance twice each month with volunteers from the club helping cover the routes.

To receive services

For Erath County seniors and disabled individuals in need of assistance, Lee said MOW is here to help.

"To get started on meals, you just have to let us know you're interested or call us and make a referral if you know someone who could benefit," Lee said. "We will set up a time to come to your home for an assessment."

She said the assessment is simple and straightforward.

"We ask several questions to assess what the particular nutritional needs are as well as some of the health needs," Lee said.

For more information, visit the organization's website at www.erathmow.org, or call (254) 965-3510.