The Weatherford community is great — filled with caring people who watch out for one another and respond in times of emergency, agreed Parker County Committee on Aging staff members Barb Wood and Jill Brainard.
Just last week, Wood, a case manager, sent out a notice about the need for non-perishable food items in the Senior Center food pantry — and already she’s seen an enthusiastic response from the community. Jerry’s Cadillac donated $1 for every “like” they received on their Facebook page recently. Community members have come in with donations and the Weatherford Democrat is scheduling a food drive with raffle prizes for those who donate on Dec. 11.
Still, as Brainard, the activities director, noted on Tuesday, things are “a little on the bare side.”
“There was an extreme need,” Wood agreed, “just since last Thursday, there have been donations pouring in.”
Canned fruit and canned meat, which Wood acknowledged were two of the most expensive kinds of canned items to buy, are among the items the Senior Center pantry needs most. But, donors should save the sweetened cereals (such as Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Puffs) for themselves.
“Those are things our seniors just don’t care for, we need more healthful, adult cereals,” Wood said.
Popular among seniors are snack crackers and breakfast bars, she said.
“Things they can eat on the go, things they can nibble,” she explained.
In the last couple of years, especially, stocking the Senior Center pantry has become more difficult, Wood said. It’s especially difficult during the summer months when it’s hard to hold a food drive in the extreme heat.
Yet, it’s vital to raise awareness and donations because many seniors in the county depend on the pantry and other Parker County Committee on Aging food services. There are currently 243 seniors receiving Meals-on-Wheels deliveries — for which donations and volunteers are always needed. The pantry also keeps stocked with Boost and Ensure supplement drinks, as well as canned stews for times during the winter when there may be ice and more seniors are homebound, unable to get out and get meals.
The first and third Wednesday are “grocery days” at the Senior Center and usually 50 to 70 people come in seeking food from the pantry, Wood said. However, any senior in need of “emergency groceries” can come by and get a bag full of groceries. The staff try to include a little bit of everything — fruit, vegetables, pasta, meats — in order to give the seniors the most meals. The staff does ask that those seeking groceries fill out a form their first time, but they’ll immediately be able to get groceries, there’s no waiting process. Seniors must be 60 years of age and up to get the groceries and the staff does keep track of who is getting groceries and where they live. The process is done without intimidation because the goal is to keep seniors fed, Brainard said.
Even though the center is seeing more donations, Wood and Brainard noted that when food comes in, it does go fast.
“You’ll be stocked full of peanut butter and then you’ll look around and suddenly wonder, ‘Where did all the peanut butter go?’” Wood said.
For those making donations, the Senior Center staff urge donors to check the expiration dates since they cannot use expired food items, and to donate items that are easy for seniors to prepare or that are microwavable. Specific needs include shelf stable meals like Hormel Completes, instant oatmeal packets, breakfast bars, canned soups (not broth) and stews, unsweetened breakfast cereals, crackers, peanut butter, jellies and jams, canned Meats (Spam, Vienna sausages, canned ham, potted meat, tuna), macaroni and cheese, Beefaroni, ravioli, spaghetti in a can, pasta, canned fruit, tea bags, coffee singles.
Those who would like to donate cash can also do so. All cash donations for the pantry go to buy bulk food. Staff noted that donations also contribute in the following ways:
• $50 provides hot meals to one homebound senior for a month; $300 for six months; $600 for one year
• $40 provides two transportation rides a week for one month for a senior unable to drive