BELTON — A free program that provides telephone calls to seniors who live alone will be able to expand its services after receiving a grant.

The R-U-OK program, sponsored by the Belton Police Department, has relied on 15 volunteers making weekly calls to about 25 seniors who have no one living with them to help if they should become ill or injured.

Now, with a $30,000 grant from the Central Texas Aging & Disability Resource Center, the program will not only be able to help more people, but to offer more services and operate more efficiently.

Police Chief Gene Ellis said the program will receive $10,000 immediately and another $20,000 in October.

Some of the money will be used to hire a part-time coordinator for the volunteers.

Ellis said he hopes the coordinator will “grow the program and identify seniors in need of help” as well as promote public awareness of the program by attending events such as Senior Day at the Bell County Expo Center.

Ellis also would like volunteers to be able to spend more time talking with the seniors or call more frequently if needed, he said.

Richard McGhee, director of the resource center, said after he found out about R-U-OK, he decided to get in touch with Ellis because he personally appreciated what the program had to offer.

“My dad, who is a Korean (War) Marine combat veteran, was diagnosed with dementia earlier this year. I, myself, have become a long-distance caregiver for my father after my mother passed, making weekly calls to rural western Virginia,” he said.

Seniors enrolled in the program will not only be able to tell their callers if they are hurt or ill, they can also tell someone if they believe someone is attempting to scam them, Ellis said.

If a senior enrolled in the program doesn’t answer the phone when a volunteer calls, a police car is sent to the home.

Money from the grant also will cover some of the cost of dispatching patrol cars.

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