Funding to buy free lunches for Havelock’s senior citizens is in jeopardy again.
Last spring, when Craven County eliminated the congregate meals program at the Havelock Senior Center, the Atlantic Baptist Association stepped forward to pay the $800 monthly cost of providing lunch to about 25 seniors each weekday.
A.D. Brady, director of the senior center, said the association simply can’t afford to keep paying for the meals, leaving the program without funding.
“It has dried up completely,” Brady said.
Brady said many churches are being stretched thin financially because the needs of their members and in the community are so great.
Brady said an average of 25 seniors receive the free lunches each day at the center.
“Some days it may be 15, the next day it might be 40,” Brady said.
Brady said the center has enough money to provide meals for about three more weeks.
“We’re looking for more funds,” Brady said.
Earlier this month, Brady sent out 325 letters to area businesses and churches asking for help in funding the program.
Havelock Commissioner George Liner will be attending a January 26 Craven County Area Aging Committee meeting to lobby for Havelock to get funds for the program in the upcoming 2014-15 Craven County budget.
“In the past, Havelock has never had a representative on that committee,” Brady said. “Mr. Liner has volunteered to be on that committee so that we can have our input considered. We’ve had some very favorable responses. Our new mayor is aware of what we are doing. We just want to make sure that Havelock gets a voice before they start divvying up that money, but in the meantime we have to continue to feed our seniors and we need funds.”
To bridge the gap from January to July, Brady said about $4,800 would be needed.
“We are quite confident that we are going to get some funds, but from now until the 30th of June, we have no funds,” he said.
Brady said the program goes beyond providing free, nutritious meals for seniors. He said the socializing that seniors do when they come together for the lunches helps their mental health as well.
“The congregate meals program is also a way for the seniors to congregate and socialize,” he said. “The majority of the seniors live alone and they have no contact whatsoever. This is a way that they have human contact. When seniors have that socialization and contact, they seem to be happier, healthier, and they’re not getting depressed and it’s keeping them out of the nursing home, so it’s saving the government a lot of money by providing the congregate meals.
“The philosophy of the Older Americans Act basically states that the key to the congregate meals is to provide a place for seniors to socialize. We’re trying to keep them happy and socializing and give them a nutritious meal, the things they deserve as senior citizens.”
Brady said for some seniors, the free lunches help them get by financially.
“If we do not get funds into this facility to continue the congregate meals program, there are going to be seniors that are going to have to be making choices again between buying food or buying medicine,” he said.
The county last year cut funding for senior meals in Havelock and Harlowe, with some officials saying tax money should not be used just to allow seniors to socialize. Those seniors who qualified under new federal income guidelines were allowed to continue with the program but were told they would have to drive to New Bern to receive the free meals.