By Joey McWilliams
BRYAN COUNTY – Budgets cuts in Oklahoma in recent years have affected people and organizations across the state in various ways. For the Meals on Wheels program in Durant, a new cut came in the form of milk.
The program, which operates under the umbrella of another organization that recently lost state funding – the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) – was informed recently that the Southern Oklahoma Nutrition Program was making a change to the allotments for the meals to be given out.
Instead of allowing for money to purchase milk for the meals, powdered milk was to be sent as a replacement.
Sheila Risner, executive director for the RSVP, said this was not acceptable.
“This year, with the budget cuts, the Southern Oklahoma Nutrition Program, the program that cooks the meals for Meals on Wheels and for the congregants that come here, decided that with the budget cuts, they needed to cut something, so they cut the milk that went out to Meals on Wheels,” Risner said. “They were going to send out powdered milk and I said, ‘No, we can’t do that. These folks need their milk.'”
Risner said she was told the recipients of the meals would appreciate the powdered milk to use to make cornbread and other foods, but that she insisted that wouldn’t work for these people.
“I said, ‘You don’t understand. They’re on Meals on Wheels because they can’t cook.'”
So Risner worked with numbers and said she decided her group would take care of getting the milk for Meals on Wheels itself.
The Meals on Wheels meals cost $2 per meal and Risner has been able to keep it at that cost. She contacted the milk company and set things up so RSVP would take over from the nutrition program the purchasing of the milk. In talking with the milk company and expressing her situation as a non-profit organization, she was able to make an arrangement to purchase the milk at an even better price than it went for before.
Risner said the process took about three weeks to get started, but it is going now.
But the need to finance this process into the future still exists.
The RSVP doesn’t have the funds to keep up these purchases. RSVP itself operates with funds from the United Way, a grant from the National Corporation for Community Service and a fundraiser.
Immediate help for the purchase of the milk came following a conversation with Pam Robinson, director of the Bryan County United Way.
“At Rotary the other day, Pam said she said she knew someone that really wanted to do something money-wise,” Risner said. “And she said if you can tell me what it will cost for a year, this person, whoever it is, will probably donate for it.
“I figured it up and sent it to her and right now we’re are taking care of it and for right now we have the money and we’re not passing that cost on to our participants.”
So the need is met for now. But the Meals on Wheels program will need assistance for the purchase of real milk in the future.
Risner said anyone wanting to help with this should contact her at the RSVP at 580-924-3659.
“We’re trying to provide a service. They talk to me or, if I’m not here, Jackie can take a message. If anybody wants to do that, we would be glad. Any help we can get, we’ll take it.
“They call these folks the ‘Greatest Generation’ and that’s true. These folks are my extended family, that’s how I feel about them. I just want to take care of them.”