Congregate, home-delivered meals back on track for county elders

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Bambi Press, left, community nutrition manager for Wesley Life, and Melissa Gannon, administrator of the Perry Lutheran Homes, outlined their plans Tuesday for providing home-delivered meals to Dallas County residents.

Aging Resources of Central Iowa Nutrition Services Director Carol Schmidt, left, and Aging Resources of Central Iowa Contracted Services Director Margaret De Sio, right, used their resources to attract new providers for the Meals on Wheels and congregate meals in Dallas County.

The resourceful social workers at Aging Resources of Central Iowa scrambled to find temporary providers of Meals on Wheels and congregate meals for Dallas County residents after the demise of HomeCare Services Aug. 31, and now they have found permanent providers to keep the county’s elderly well fed from Oct. 1 onward.

On Tuesday Aging Resources Nutrition Services Director Carol Schmidt and Aging Resources Contracted Services Director Margaret De Sio attended their third meeting in five weeks of the Dallas County Board of Supervisors, and they found the supervisors willing to fund the new nutrition providers.

An average of about 90 hot meals prepared and delivered Monday through Friday by HomeCare Services Inc of Dallas County, but now those same clients will be served by the following three agencies delivering Meals on Wheels:

  • Polk County-based Wesley Life will serve home-delivered meals to about 45 former HomeCare clients in Adel, Dallas Center, Granger, Waukee and Woodward.
  • The Perry Lutheran Homes will provide home-delivered meals to about 30 people in the Perry and northern Dallas County area.
  • Madison County Elderly Services, based in Winterset, will deliver daily hot meals to some 15 residents in De Soto, Dexter, Linden, Redfield and Van Meter.

Perry Lutheran Homes Administrator Melissa Gannon and Wesley Life Community Nutrition Manager Bambi Press also attended Tuesday’s meeting and outlined their organizations’ plans to contract with Aging Resources to provide home-delivered meals.

“Right now we’re just starting small,” Gannon said. “We had a lot of community members come and ask us if we were interested. Initially, we didn’t know how interested we were going to be in it because we’re a Christian, stand-alone, non-profit organization, and we don’t have a lot of funds to do it.”

Gannon said her organization looked into it and realized that since they already prepare about 100 meals three times a day for the Perry Lutheran Homes residents, another 30 meals might be feasible even if they were home-delivered and met “different nutritional regulations.”

“Our biggest thing is just helping the Perry community and impacting people’s lives,” she said. “There’s a lot of low income in that area.”

Press said Wesley Life is also a “faith-based, non-profit organization” that currently serves more than 800 clients in Polk County as the Meals on Wheels provider. She said the Wesley Life nutrition program is already set up to meet nutritional and safety standards.

“The big other piece for us in this,” Press said, “is there’s a significant transportation piece because our meals are produced in Des Moines not far from Methodist Hospital, and we have the added expense of transporting those is a safe way to Dallas County homes.”

She said there are 21 vehicles in the Wesley Life fleet, and each is equipped with a food warmer that draws power from the vehicle itself, guaranteeing a hot meal upon delivery.

Some details of the contracts not yet been finalized, De Sio told the supervisors Tuesday, but the three agencies appear likely to be awarded the contracts for the Meals on Wheels program in Dallas County.

On the congregate-meals side, Schmidt said an average of about 30 county residents in recent months have been dining during the week at one of three sites, with about 15 people congregating in Adel, some five to 10 people dining in Perry and seven to 15 congregate diners in Waukee.

Once the new arrangements are in place, congregate meals will continue to be served at the McCreary Community Building in Perry and at the Sugar Creek Apartments in Waukee.

The Adel congregate-meal site was lost with the closure of HomeCare Services, but the supervisors learned Tuesday the Adel American Legion Post 464 hall is available as a congregate site at $20 a day. Schmidt said Aging Resources is still seeking a new site manager for the Adel congregate meals.

The supervisors took no formal action Tuesday but offered their verbal assurance of meeting the Aging Resources of Central Iowa request for matching funds of about $20,000 for the Perry Lutheran Homes and $30,000 for Wesley Life. Contracts with the providers are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.

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