By Sara Talbert
Killeen Daily Herald
The local Meals on Wheels program was hit by a hard freeze and has yet to feel any warmth in its budget.
We finished severely in the hole last year, said Jan Edwards, with the Hill Country Community Action Associa-tion, which runs the program.
Those involved with the meal-delivery program are feeling the chill in the funding freeze that has limited money coming down from the state.
More than $40,000 was lost in state funding in the last program year. Client contributions were also down about $30,000.
Next years projected budget looks to be starting out in the hole, Edwards said.
Projected expenses are about $1.3 million, with projected revenue coming up about $64,000 short.
Everybody is experiencing cutbacks due to the economy, Edwards said. Its the costs that are hard on us.
According to an action committee fact sheet, 84 percent of Meals on Wheels recipients say the meals are their primary source of nutrition. About 17 percent say that without the meal, they would have no food at all.
The goal of a lot of this is to keep elderly people healthy, said Bell County Precinct 1 Commissioner Richard Cortese.
This means the world to them, Edwards said of the recipients. Its very essential.
Ruth Harris, 80, of Killeen, said the service is the highlight of her day. She is unable to cook for herself and is dependent on the daily meal.
Its well-planned and its well-cooked, said Harris, who says she also enjoys spending time with the volunteers who bring her food.
They have very pleasant volunteers. They are cheerful and make you feel better when you talk with them a few minutes.
The Department of Aging and Disability Services, otherwise known as DADS, gives the action committee money to provide meals to their DADS-qualified recipients.
They pay us so much money per meal, said Edwards. We dont ask for any other funding for meals other than what DADS give us.
Edwards said HCCAA funds the meals for those not qualified for the DADS program, and their funding is running dry.
Besides contributions, the program is also funded with the help of the Community Development Block Grant, cities, counties, the United Way and local donations.
HCCAA provides more than 1,000 meals each week to 11 senior centers, 14 nutrition sites and to home-bound residents in Central Texas, serving Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, Mills, and San Saba counties.
Were constantly striving to find ways to save money, said Edwards. I know people tend to think, Well, the government takes care of them, but its hard, due to the funding cutbacks.
Edwards said she hopes people in the area might contribute more.
We do have some volunteers and thank God for them, said Edwards. But, we need help to take up the slack.
Sandy Mendoza, who is the Aging Services Killeen Center Director, said she receives several Meals on Wheels referrals per day.
They must be 60 years or older and really have to be homebound, said Mendoza.
Right now we need money, said Mendoza. We also need volunteers, too.
The Killeen center prepares and delivers 60-75 hot meals daily.
They receive a well-balanced meal, said Mendoza. Our volunteers also sit and talk with them for a while. It really makes them feel good.
To make a contribution to Meals on Wheels, call Sandy Mendoza at 699-8888, or stop by 916 Rev. R.A. Abercrombie Drive in Killeen.
Contact Sara Talbert at