Linn County Congregate Meals Sites Serve Up Last Lunch

By Dave Franzman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Some Linn County seniors have fewer choices for meals programs after Wednesday.

That’s because Horizons Meals on Wheels closed five congregate meals sites in Linn County on this final day of the month. Meal locations in Ely, Hiawatha, Marion, Springville and St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids stopped serving after lunch. The Healthy Horizons location at the Oakhill Jackson Community Church will remain open as will a meals site in Lisbon. Those closings did not impact other Horizons meal sites in surrounding counties.

In announcing the closings earlier this month, Horizons officials noted the need to cut $200,000 dollars from the meals budget. That’s the equivalent of 35,000 meals.

At St Mark’s on the final day, it looked a bit like business as usual with the dozen or so regulars in attendance. But the big question at this “last lunch” was where to go now.

Several noted that the sites aren’t just a place for a low-cost meal. It’s also a place to socialize and stay active and in touch with people.

Betty Stotler believes the St. Mark’s meals site on Johnson Avenue N.W. opened about 30 years ago. She’s come here for 25 of those years and doesn’t relish the need to find somewhere else to go.

“I’ve gotten to know these people who I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise and it makes you get out when otherwise who stay home alone,” Stotler said.

Congregate meal site users do have some choices going forward after the cutbacks. Horizons will offer a “private pay” meal for $3.50, instead of the usual donation, that will included a limited menu of soup and sandwiches. That would allow participants to continue using some of the locations that won’t see the normal hot meal service. Another choice is going to one of the sites that will remain open — such as the Healthy Horizons location.

Another St. Mark’s regular, Lucille Mangrich, said regulars here may opt for both of those choices.

“I would guess most of them would go to the new place. But we’ve talked about trying the delivery here, once a week, to St. Mark’s,” she said.

St. John Lutheran Church in Ely plans to continue operating the community center site there two days a week. Dianna Young, Horizons Meals on Wheels director, said she has also heard talk from some other community groups about eventually stepping in as well at other closed locations.

Those who are homebound, or don’t have access to transportation, can switch to home delivery through the Meals on Wheels volunteers.

l Comments: (319) 368-8611; dave.franzman@sourcemedia.net

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