MASON COUNTY — Remaining in their own homes for as long as possible is a major goal for most senior citizens.
The Mason County Action Group Inc. assists seniors in this endeavor by addressing three of the biggest threats of aging people: isolation, hunger and loss of independence, according to Renae Riffle, MCAG executive director.
Seniors can take advantage of the MCAG’s meals program in one of two ways — by traveling to one of two senior centers or through home delivery, commonly known as “Meals on Wheels.” The centers include the Gene Salem Senior Center, located at 101 Second St., Point Pleasant, and the Mason Senior Center on Second Street in Mason.
Riffle said approximately 14,000 meals were served to more than 300 seniors that attended the centers in 2015. Meals are served weekdays at 11:30 a.m. By attending the centers, seniors not only receive a nutritious meal, but socialization, exercise and information assistance, as well.
For those seniors who are home-bound, meals are delivered. Delivering a hot meal five days a week also provides a wellness check imperative to the health and safety of seniors, Riffle said. Last year, about 20,000 meals were delivered to 162 seniors throughout the county by two route drivers.
Because of the growing need of these programs, Riffle said the cost of the meals far outweighs the funding received. Seniors are asked to make a suggested donation of $2.50 per meal, but no one is ever denied a meal due to inability to pay.
To help offset the costs of providing meals, MCAG will be participating in the 14th annual “March for Meals,” a month-long, nationwide celebration of Meals on Wheels. As part of the celebration, MCAG will host a March for Meals Bingo event on Friday, March 4.
Advance tickets for the bingo are now available at the Gene Salem center for $20. Tickets at the door the evening of the event will be $25. Doors will open at 5 p.m. with concessions available, and games will begin at 6 p.m.
Riffle said prizes for the games have been donated by local businesses, which have been “very supportive.” Hotel stays, photography sessions, name brand purses and baskets, dinners at nearby restaurants and jewelry are just a few of the prizes to be awarded.
“The March for Meals Bingo and other fundraising efforts by the Mason County Action Group throughout the year makes an effort to fill the funding gap between the seniors served and those in need that is widening due to increased demand with a rapidly aging population, combined with declining public and private resources, and rising food, transportation and operational costs,” Riffle stated. “MCAG is reaching out to our communities to build the support that will enable them to deliver nutritious meals, friendly visits, and safety checks to Mason County seniors all year long.”
Last year’s bingo event had a full house with no seats available. This year, the support thus far has been even greater, according to Riffle, who added the staff volunteers all of the time needed for the fundraisers.
Riffle stated some businesses and organizations, such as Ohio Valley Bank and the Point Pleasant Moose Lodge No. 731, make annual contributions to the program. She said some personal donations come in as well, and are always welcomed.
Riffle said MCAG serves meals that most people would serve in their own homes, of good quality and tasty, but as economically as possible. Chicken and dumplings, meat loaf, baked pork chops, and sweet and sour chicken are just a few of the items on the February menu.
She stated the two kitchen employees are responsible for all the meals provided by the program daily. They are constantly striving to improve quality, as well as cost. Using a food service normally saves money by ordering in bulk, but Riffle said the workers recently saved thousands of dollars annually by figuring out that they could buy the ingredients and make some items, such as chili and beef stew, cheaper than the pre-made items.
MCAG has been serving seniors for the past 50 years with not only nutrition, but also transportation and in-home care. Anyone wanting additional information on any of the programs, or wishing to make a donation, can reach Riffle at 304-675-2369.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.