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Barstow Senior Center gets Meals on Wheels contract
Center takes over Victor Valley feeding program after money problems at Hi Desert Meals on Wheels
BARSTOW • The Barstow Senior Center is now officially under contract to operate the cash-strapped Hi Desert Meals on Wheels program throughout the High Desert.
Hi Desert Meals on Wheels shuttered Aug. 12 due to internal funding problems. Two days later, the Barstow Senior Center stepped in and began providing meals to sites in Victorville, Hesperia and Adelanto.
The deal approved Tuesday by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors provides additional funding to the senior center to align with its recent expansion of services, transferring $365,746 to the senior center and increasing its total contract amount to $553,376 for the period of July 1 to June 30, 2014, according to the agenda item from the supervisors’ meeting.
“I am proud the Barstow Senior Citizens Center has stepped up to take over these essential services for our seniors in the High Desert,” 3rd District Supervisor James Ramos said in a prepared statement.
However, senior center Nutrition Director Maurice Lessard and volunteer/President Jeff Eason, Sr. were mindful Tuesday of issues still facing the senior center as they officially take charge.
They said that subsidized meals they provide — now to four sites including Barstow — are still only partially funded by the county, continuing the senior center’s reliance on donations from the public and program participants over the age of 60.
The senior center suggests a $3 donation per meal for individuals over 60 years old. For individuals under 60, it’s a $4.50 charge.
They say donations have been “way down” as of late.
Lessard said he is also keeping an eye on the current national budget battle in Washington, saying a non-resolution is “going to affect all elderly nutrition sites across the U.S.”
Tuesday’s contract approval comes a month after the retirement of Hi Desert Meals on Wheels Director Lin Staley. Staley’s retirement followed the resignation of President Chuck Smith in June.
Previous attempts to reach Staley about Meals on Wheels’ funding problems were unsuccessful.
To accommodate its expansion during the last two months, the senior center has been “running Barstow as a central location,” preparing an extra 181 hot meals and 165 frozen dinners per day, according to Lessard.
Meals on Wheels has then been picking up the food from Barstow every morning.
The center was originally expected to provide Victor Valley seniors with meals for two to six weeks beginning Aug. 14, but Tuesday’s deal signals something more permanent.
Lessard said the center has since hired two additional workers to help with the increased workload and is currently seeking volunteer drivers to deliver meals in the Victor Valley.
Donations can be sent to the Barstow Senior Center at 555 Melissa Ave., Barstow, CA 92311.
Call the senior center at 760-256-5023 for more information.
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.
Jose Quintero can be reached at 760-256-4122 or JQuintero@DesertDispatch.com.