By Kathryn Rice

“From my perspective, I am open to looking at any viable opportunities that will help take care of our senior citizens,” State Representative Allen Andrews said about changes facing the Nodaway County Senior Center.

The Northwest Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in Albany will no longer allocate monies to the senior center for meals served at the center, home-delivered meals or Medicaid meals. This is a cut of $100,000 from the senior center budget as of September 1.

Andrews stated that the 95 seniors receiving the home-delivered meals will still receive meals.

“I’m not going to stop serving anyone, but we will have to charge by the first of October,” Nodaway County Senior Center Administrator Amie Firavich said.

“I’m concerned for the long-term sustainable funding for senior centers,” Andrews said. “I still have hesitation of what everything may look like but am interested to see how the pilot programs will work in Nodaway County.

“The pilots are looking at innovative ways to provide more services for less money. Maryville will act as a hub. This will allow us to get in front of the changes where we can make decisions instead of making decisions with our backs against the wall.”

“Home-delivered meals to seniors allows these people to stay in their own homes longer and not go into a nursing home,” Firavich said.

The Nodaway County Senior Center serves approximately 160 people a day. Meals are delivered to 95 seniors in their homes while the other meals are served at the center.

Seniors utilizing this service come from all economic brackets. For those age 60 and older, the recommended donation is $4. For those under 60, the cost is $7. Donations received at the center average $2.57 per person.

“‘How do we cover the people who are low poverty and can’t pay for the meals?’ is the question we’re asking ourselves,” Firavich said about a committee made up of board members and herself.

State connection

AAA is under the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Citizens Services. The following information was supplied by Chief Sara O’Conner, office of public information from that department.

• Regulatory requirements are outlined in 19 CSR 15.4.170 as to how AAA is funded and how it is spent.

• There is no statewide mandated pilot for home-delivered meals.

• Nutrition services are an important service provided by AAA.

• There are no funds earmarked for specific counties by the department.

• 64.4 percent, or $864,233,745, comes from Medicaid home-and community-based services with an additional .2 percent, or $3 million, coming from reassessments.

Senior center information

Without state and federal funding, the Nodaway County Senior Center must use reserve funds to finance home-delivered meals. This is $100,000 which Firavich says won’t last through the year.

The center has five full-time and one part-time staff. These positions are the administrator, the culinary manager, two culinary specialists, one operation support specialist and the part-time building custodian.

Board members are President David Smith, Vice-president Delores Collins, Treasurer Connie McGinness, Secretary Linda Girard and members Bob Bohlken, Carolyn Franks, Elaine Haist, Mike Herring and Jerome Solheim.

Senior center to be self-sufficient

A business plan is being formulated to help the senior center become self-sufficient and not rely on state and federal funds. Firavich and her committee have been working with Rebecca Lobina, director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center.

Firavich and her board were notified on July 7 that Nodaway County would not receive funding but would be part of the unfunded pilot program.

In an August 1 email, Lobina informed AAA Administrator Becky Flaherty that a financial analysis, which benchmarks the center against similar entities, had been completed.

Lobina continued, “having less than 60 days to get a formal, complete business plan and execute it is nearly impossible… the execution will realistically take a good three to six months… and six to nine months to see if the changes … make a significant difference to the net profit.”

Part of the plan will also incorporate changing the perception of the senior center. The services of the senior center go above and beyond serving meals, stated Lobina.

The Nodaway County community must rally behind the senior center, she said. The center needs to tell the story and explain its worth to the community. Lobina is suggesting creating a website and utilizing social media among other avenues to do this.

The Nodaway County Senior Center is conducting a survey to help develop its business plan. It has been ongoing since the beginning of August. To take the survey, stop by the center at 1210 East First, Maryville, or call 660.562.3999.

“I am very supportive of the Meals on Wheels program and I am looking for ways to rectify this situation,” Missouri State Senator Dan Hegeman said.

“My main concern is that the needs of our senior citizens are well taken care of,” Andrews said.