Christmas dinner served at the Great Bend Senior Center Thursday, Dec. 19,
kicked off the 2020 ElderCare Inc. meal-sponsorship program, with two local
businesses and one anonymous donor leading the way.
Animal Medical Center and The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Campus stepped up to support “this crucial program,” said Brandi Gruber, ElderCare executive director.
“These community leaders and the private donor are demonstrating they care for local senior citizens who need a helping hand,” Gruber said. “They helped us lay the groundwork for seeking other sponsors that will provide nutritious meals for our neighbors.
“The seniors who came to the Christmas dinner were surprised and thankful for the sponsored meal,” Gruber added. “All of us at ElderCare are excited about adding more sponsors to the ongoing program in 2020.”
Gruber also emphasized that the need for Friendship Meals has increased in Great Bend. “The needs continue to grow and tax revenues cannot keep up with the demand,” she said. “We have to rely on private donations to help those in need.”
Dr. Ty Brunswig, veterinarian at Animal Medical Center in Great Bend, said “we are always trying to help support our local communities. When ElderCare approached us, we immediately knew this is a great program for people who cannot afford a meal.
“It is pretty easy to just go about our day-to-day living and not think about something as simple as food,” he continued. “Yes, there are hungry people all over the world but the older generation right here in Great Bend could use the community’s help. Giving locally has a direct impact on our neighbors.”
Tina Mingenback, ElderCare dietary services manager, said the meal-sponsorship program is open to any business or individual at ElderCare’s 39 Senior Centers in its 28-county territory. These counties are located from central Kansas to the Colorado and Oklahoma borders. About 20 percent of the meals served each month are in Barton County.
“Donors have the personal satisfaction of providing healthy meals, while helping us offset ever-increasing food costs,” Mingenback said. “They can help ensure our programs will continue.”
Income from federal and state grants for Friendship Meals has decreased during the last decade, she noted. “Meal sponsorships can help bridge this financial gap. If we don’t have donations and/or funding increases, our programs cannot survive.”
Sometimes, Mingenback noted, seniors need a helping hand but “pride gets in the way. They are not going to reach out and ask for help. This is a way they can get the help they need without asking for it.”
Most Friendship Meals are served in Senior Centers but they also are delivered by Meals on Wheels. Sponsors have choices about how they can help. It could be with a check for any amount, or sponsorships for one day, once a month or quarterly.
“Sponsors could do this just one time or make it a regular part of their charitable giving,” Mingenback commented. “This would be a wonderful gesture during the Christmas season or part of a New Year’s resolution.”
She also emphasized that all contributions remain in local communities and donors may specify where they want their money to go.
In addition, business sponsors can raise awareness about their products and services by joining Senior Center patrons at mealtime. They are welcome to provide a quick overview of their businesses; hand out business cards and brochures; and post a banner at the Senior Center.
For more information, contact ElderCare, 1121 Washington, by calling 620-792-5942.