Starting at 4:30 in the morning, the journey begins.
“We leave from the meal site. We go get the meals. We come back. We go to the gas station, fuel up, and then 6:00 we gone,” said Jason Stewart, who works for the Livingston Parish Council on Aging.
Stewart knows this route all too well. He was a Meals on Wheels delivery driver for more than three years, and now, works as a maintenance manager for LPCOA.
“The man who was before me, he did it for 20 years. He was retiring. So, I got the news that he was retiring. I went on ahead and filled out an application and got the job,” explained Stewart. “Once I got into a rotation of everything, and everybody started appreciating me coming to them, it was like second nature. I mean, I love this job. It’s a good job.”
Now, it is a job he will never forget.
“It’s lovely. It feels good. You come to people’s houses in the mornings, and they have a smile,” said Stewart.
The Livingston Parish Council on Aging has participated in the Meals on Wheels program for more than 20 years, but what would happen if funding was cut, and programs, like Meals on Wheels, were gone? Well, that could be a possibility because of federal budget cuts.
“It would be a crying shame. I mean, you know, sometimes we are the only people that seniors see on a daily basis. This would be a crying shame to lose. It would be sad to all of the seniors,” said Stewart.
The executive director of LPCOA said those cuts will eliminate any services. The parish’s COA gets funding from the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs and millage. The GOEA does get federal funding, but the LPCOA will find other ways to fund Meals on Wheels, but it will not cut the program.
Meals on Wheels is just one of many programs the Livingston Parish Council on Aging provides for the elderly. The COA does not just bring frozen meals. It also serves hot meals to those at it’s service center.
“We serve them breakfast, lunch and snacks all between,” said the Nutrition and Recreation Supervisor Ruth Goodwin.
Goodwin has been here for 36 years.
“I love them. I love to work with them,” said Goodwin.
For friends Billie Jean Alfred, Josephine Robinson and Joyce Rheams, they come here for more than just a hot meal.
“I like the transportation that they furnish when I need to go to the doctor. They take me to the doctor, to the hospital, or wherever I need to go, they do that,” explained Robinson. “I come every day. This is my home away from home. In fact, I think this is my home.”
“We do all kinds of stuff. We pray and sing and dance. We have bands here,” said Rheams.
“It’s very important to all of us. Sometimes, I wish we could stay longer,” said Alfred. ” The fellowship is great, and that’s what older people need, being together and talking to each other.”
The same goes for friends Bertha Hood, Eunice Thompson and May Adler.
“After I lost my husband I was alone. So I came here,” said Hood.
“We play bingo. We have dances. They just went on a fishing trip,” said Adler.
“Well, it’s important because we love them, and this is about all the teaching some of them get because their family has moved away or something, especially this year after the flood. They needed all the teaching they can get because a lot of them have been displaced,” explained Goodwin.
Nationally, Meals on Wheels America has received a spike in donations since the federal budget proposal.
If you would like to learn more about the Livingston Parish Council on Aging, you can click here.