By Natalie Townsend
Published in The Williamson County Sun August 3, 2014
When Deanna Shanklin is asked about the seniors who visit the facility she runs, Meals on Wheels’ Madella Hillard Neighborhood Center; her eyes brighten and the outpouring begins–“the cutest little” 101-year-old lady loves bingo; a 94-year-old man and his newlywed wife (“they haven’t even been married two years”); Ms. Linda Linda, who always has her nose in a book and has visited the facility for 20 years; Larry Eads, who owned a barbershop on the Square for 40 years, and so on.
“We don’t consider them clients,” Ms. Shanklin said. “We consider them part of our family. There are a lot of fantastic people.”
Feeding the hungry
Meals on Wheels is one of several philanthropic programs administered by Williamson-Burnet County Opportunities, a community action agency that also operates Head Start, pre-kindergarten for low-income families, and offers emergency assistance paying bills.
The Hillard Center at 803 West Eighth Street is one of four Meals on Wheels locations in Williamson County, and serves around 130 meals every day, both to seniors who visit the center and in deliveries to residents around town, according to Ms. Shanklin.
“It’s such a compelling issue,” said Diana Phillips, executive director for Williamson-Burnet County Opportunities. “Hunger is a huge issue for everyone; it doesn’t matter what age you are.
“The fact that our seniors have given so much, and for so many of them it’s important to be independent–Meals on Wheels helps them to do that.”
For seniors using Meals on Wheels, hot, nutritious food is just one of many benefits.
Reminiscent of a family dinner, many also value the program for the opportunity to socialize and play dominoes or bingo, or make crafts.
The program helps homebound seniors remain independent longer. Volunteers deliver meals daily to residents who are unable to cook for themselves.
The clients receive a meal and speak to the delivery driver, who ensures safe conditions.
“That’s our goal,” Ms. Shanklin said. “We give the family peace of mind because we have the best volunteers in the world in Georgetown, and we check on our clients every day. We make sure their welfare is okay. They check the condition of the house and the people themselves.”
Meals on Wheels has served 2,545 meals at the Hilliard Center this year and delivered more than 18,000 to homebound seniors.
I think that a large part of aging as a country, we have to be thoughtful about how to serve that [senior] population and how to help them stay in their homes.” Ms. Phillips said. “We think it is so important. The longer they are in their homes, the less expensive it is for them and for our country.”
Between Burnet and Williamson counties, Williamson-Burnet Opportunities cooks about 130,000 meals a year. Federal funding covers about 40 percent of the cost, Ms. Phillips said. The rest of the organization’s revenue comes from grants and donations.
Seeds of Strength gave Williamson-Burnet County Opportunities a $10,000 donation this year, earmarked for Meals on Wheels. The money will purchase about 4,500 meals in Georgetown.
“I just think the women that do Seeds of Strength…what a great concept of giving,” Ms. Phillips said. “They come together for something that’s bigger than they are individually. They’re expanding the mission of all our non-profits and I’m sure the decisions are really hard. The 4,500 meals that they provide through the $10,000 grant is incredible and truly could save the life of a senior citizen.”