By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – In a workshop last Monday, Tyler County Commissioners and County Judge Jacques Blanchette discussed the future of the county’s senior nutritional program.
Recently, it was announced in commissioners court that the program, which is part of a regional effort, operated by East Texas Support Services, is in need of new direction. East Texas Support Services announced in June that it no longer wants to provide the service, and will cease its support on Sept. 30, when the current fiscal year ends.
Hunt asked if the county would wish to step in to operate the program, or if a non-profit would be interested in doing so.
He said that whoever steps up to operate it would have to have at least 90 days of operating capital. “They’re going to have to have some financial stability going forward,” said Hunt.
Woodville businessman Kendall Coleman has expressed interest in taking on the program, Hunt said.
The service is responsible for approximately 1,000 meals delivered each month to seniors in the county.
The responsibility of DETCOG would be to ensure that the quality of the meals were up to standard, as well as tracking the number of meals served and delivered.
Hunt said that whatever decision the county comes to is “critical” in the program’s success.
He said that if the county did not wish to step in to operate the program, a non-profit organization would be the next best scenario.
“The meal service is important, nutrition is important,” Hunt said, and added that many people in the region are in danger of not having adequate nutrition. He also spoke to the importance of the Nutrition Center, from the standpoint of the interaction seniors get with one another.
He said that for those who have meals delivered, the interaction between the recipient and the delivery driver is also the only interaction they may have with someone outside their home. Ultimately, with the nutrition programs, Hunt said, it was a way to help seniors maintain a degree of independence, and not to enter nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
Hunt said if the county took no action on the program, it would signal that DETCOG “need[s] to get busy to find someone to fill the void that’s coming,” Hunt said.
Blacksher mentioned a quarterly bill that he had signed-off on for $3,400, and asked if that was the money the county contributed toward the program.
Hunt said the amount Blacksher mentioned might be the amount the county pays the current provider.
In a previous regular commissioners court meeting, where Hunt spoke about the program, he said that whoever, or whatever organizatio took over the program, needs to have at least 90 days’ worth of operating capital.
One person who did express interest in leading the program was Woodville businessman Kendall Coleman.
He said part of the funding for such programs also comes from the Texas Department of Agriculture, under a grant-funding program titled “Texans Feeding Texans.” That grant funding program, he said, comes with a stipulation that counties contribute a certain amount of funding toward nutritional programs.
Blanchette weighed some options, and said that if the county does nothing, and DETCOG finds a provider, the county would continue to support it, and both the congregate meals at the Nutrition Center and the delivery service would continue.
Blanchette emphasized that the purpose of the workshop was to receive information and generate ideas, but not to make any final decisions.
Hunt gave some options for senior meals, based on experience he had as Houston County Judge. Suggestions ranging from churches stepping in to having potluck-style meals were mentioned.
Getting a church involved, Hunt said, can bring different people into the mix; people who can possibly get more seniors into the center through outreach.
Pct. 2 Commissioner Buck Hudson spoke to the idea of getting a church involved, and said his church has a ministry where people take turns cooking, and make it competitive.
Blanchette said there will be another workshop for proposal requests for the program to come, prior to September.