RUNNELS COUNTY - It has been almost one year since Runnels County officials opted to do away with the senior meal delivery program and so far, so good, but there are always needs, and currently that is donations and volunteers to deliver.

RUNNELS COUNTY - It has been almost one year since Runnels County officials opted to do away with the senior meal delivery program and so far, so good, but there are always needs, and currently that is donations and volunteers to deliver.

Last October, Meals on Wheels Plus began providing home delivered meals to clients in Ballinger, Winters and Rowena and Meals For The Elderly began serving clients in Miles.

Runnels County Judge Barry Hilliard, who led the charge to find a program that could fit the needs of Runnels County citizens, said it has gone well, since the county opted out and Meals on Wheels stepped in.

“It proved my point,” Hilliard said. “I felt we (the county) could better serve our folks by not accepting state or federal funding.”

Betty Bradley, executive director of Meals on Wheels Plus of Abilene, recently gave an update on the program and said that as the program grows, so do the needs.

“It is exciting to see the Meals on Wheels program in Ballinger, Winters and Rowena grow to meet the needs in the County,” Bradley said. “Just 11 months ago, when Meals on Wheels Plus in Abilene, expanded to serve meals in those three communities, we were serving 60 people. The program has now doubled, is serving over 130 people - and we continue to receive requests for meals.”

In fact, the program has grown to include clients in the communities of Pumphrey and Norton most recently.

Bradley, who has referred to MOW as a ministry, said growth is what it’s all about, but then the need for financial support and volunteers grows.

She stressed that the need now is for volunteers to deliver the meals in the communities of Pumphrey and Norton.

“If five or six people sign up they would only have to deliver once a week,” she explained. “The second is we need more people in those areas to sign up to receive meals.”

That was evident last week as volunteers received the meals in Ballinger to deliver Friday.

“We need volunteers,” said volunteer Leland Hamner, who with his wife Brenda, were planning to deliver the meals in Norton that day. The Hamners were volunteers from Grace Fellowship one of several churches that schedule volunteers to deliver meals.

One incentive could be the weekly drawing held by MOW. Each week a drawing is held with all of the volunteers who delivered that week. Two names are drawn and they each are awarded a gas card.

“Just recently, one of the volunteers in Winters was the winner of a gas card,” Bradley said.

Meals on Wheels Plus provides a freshly prepared noon meal Monday through Friday to anyone who is unable to prepare balanced meals for themselves, is 60 years old or older or who is between 18-60 and disabled.

Clients have a choice of two entrees each day. Each week the clients will receive a card in the mail with a return envelope, which they fill out and return to Meals on Wheels with their weekly selections. The meals include salad, entrée, vegetables, dessert and a drink.

“We want people to contact us if they know someone who they think could benefit from the service, regardless of their income,” Bradley said. “There is the opportunity for people who are financially secure to ‘pay’ for their own meals. But if anyone needs them and cannot pay the meals are free.”

Meals on Wheels Plus are now offering help with pet food too. The Meals on Wheels “Pet Food on Wheels” program has expanded into Runnels County. Any low-income person who receives meals and has dogs or cats can contact them for pet food.

“A free bag will be delivered with their meal soon after they make the request,” Bradley said.

In addition, Bradley said a client would like to have an emergency weather radio.

“If anyone has one that still works, but they no longer use it, we know someone who is in their 80’s, lives alone in a remote area and would really like to have one,” Bradley said.

Financial support is always needed. In July, Bradley requested $50,000 from Runnels County commissioners. The request was not approved, but they did approved a $1,000 donation so that MOW can apply for grant funding through the Texas Feeding Texans program.

In May, the Music for Meals event raised almost $30,000 for Meals on Wheels Plus and Meals For The Elderly. Planning for the second annual event is currently underway and sponsors and committee volunteers are needed to help with the event, slated for mid-April.

Meals on Wheels in Abilene is a private, non-profit organization with a 26 member Board of Directors. Bradley is also seeking two Runnels County residents who could serve on the MOW board of directors. Those interested may contact Bradley at 325-672-5050 and supply a brief resume.

For more information, to volunteer or to sign up to receive meals in Runnels County, contact Lupe Vazquez coordinates Winters and Pumphrey at 325-665-9341 or Gene Roggenkamp who coordinates Ballinger, Rowena and Norton at 325-280-0042.