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Published: Wednesday, 8/25/2004

Wood County marks meal 2M, limitless good will

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After yesterday's celebrations at five area senior centers, the Wood County Committee on Aging can proudly say "Over 2 million served."

The organization began serving meals to seniors in 1981. Over the last two decades, the program has steadily grown, and the agency served its 2-millionth meal this week.

"We thought this was such a monumental accomplishment that we had to celebrate," said Jean Smith, executive director of the agency. "Two million meals is a lot of food and a lot of people we've helped."

The committee on aging planned some special activities for lunchtime yesterday at its five senior centers in Perrysburg, Rossford, Walbridge, Bowling Green, and North Baltimore. Local elected officials and personalities visited each center and raffle drawings awarded one senior at each center with the honorary title of the "2-millionth meal recipient".

The Wood County Committee on Aging serves between 650 and 750 lunches at its centers every weekday. For each lunch, there is a suggested donation of $2 for those over 60 and $4 for people under 60.

"It certainly is a bargain," said Dennis Barrett, a member of the Wood County Committee on Aging board. "A big value is the chance for seniors to socialize and talk to other people."

For those seniors who live far from the centers or are homebound, the agency also runs a program to home-deliver meals. About 400 people get meals delivered to their home every weekday.

Recipients of home-delivered meals got a special treat yesterday to help them participate in the celebration. "We deliver all over," Ms. Smith said. "We're in every village, every city, every township, every day." The lunch program offers a choice of two entrees each day. The main dish is usually accompanied by bread, fruit, salad, and dessert.

Nedra Obreiter, manager of the Perrysburg Senior Center, said she has seen a dramatic increase over the last few years in the number of seniors participating in many activities at the center, including the meals.

The Wood County Committee on Aging is anticipating that the need will continue growing as the senior population expands. Early next year, the agency plans to kick off a capital campaign to raise money for a new kitchen that will allow staff and volunteers to prepare more meals in the years to come. The agency prepares meals in a cramped 400-square-foot kitchen at the North Main Street senior center in Bowling Green. The proposed kitchen, with a price tag of $1.2 million, would be 5,900 square feet and would include the food preparation area, office space, and a garage for loading meals. The new kitchen would be behind the county health department in Bowling Green.

The Wood County Committee on Aging gets about two-thirds of its funding from a 0.7-mill levy, and the rest comes from federal and state money. The funding is not enough to pay for a new kitchen, so the agency plans to seek donations from corporations and individuals.

"We've outgrown our original kitchen," Mr. Barrett said. "We're almost at our limit, and we don't want to get in the position of telling senior citizens who want to get meals that they have to go on a waiting list."



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