Santa Barbara- S County

Santa Barbara Meals on Wheels rolls on despite threat of budget cuts

Santa Barbara Meals on Wheels

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Meals on Wheels is back in the national spotlight because of President Donald Trump's proposed budget for next year, which could have an impact on the organization.

The Santa Barbara city branch is almost entirely funded by donations and bequeaths, receiving a minimal portion of its budget from the local government.

"The Santa Barbara Meals on Wheels is a non-profit organization. We get a small grant from the county which we have to re-apply for all of the time," said board member and volunteer Terry Thomas.

Thomas said the non-profit will continue to operate and deliver meals, even if cuts are made.

Pauline Shillam is a retired school teacher who lives alone and relies on Meals on Wheels to maintain her independence.

"It means that I'm able to stay in this apartment, mainly. I wouldn't be able to lug groceries up and down the stairs," Shillam said.

Recipients pay a nominal fee for a hearty and warm meal delivered to their door within the city of Santa Barbara, and a few locations in unincorporated areas.

The meals are prepared daily in the kitchen at Valle Verde Retirement Community.

The organization is made up of 85 volunteers who deliver the meals 7 days a week, rain or shine.

"On an average, we've been serving about a 100 meals a day, it goes up and it goes down," Thomas said. "Each year, we serve about 31,000 to 33,000 meals, between regular meals and special meals."

Meals on Wheels in Santa Barbara was started by two women in the 1970's and has been operating in the city ever since.

People who are elderly or homebound are not the only ones who can receive assistance. This branch delivers to people of all ages, and anyone battling injury or illness.

Other branches, and networks across the country are concerned about budget cuts. The blueprint for next year's budget suggests eliminating 3 billion dollars from Community Development Block grants-which provides the Meals on Wheels national office with funding. So far, its unclear exactly how the budget would impact the organization, but it is likely to differentiate from state to state. 

Thomas said the Santa Barbara branch helps keep people out of nursing homes and hospitals.

"We are helping these people, we're helping our government and we're helping out community," said Thomas.

For Shillam, the program is not only about nutrition- it helps to ease her sense of isolation.

"For now, Meals on Wheels is really helping me out," said Shillam. "They're holding it together."

The organization is trying to enhance its outreach to the community.

To learn more about Santa Barbara Meals on Wheels, click here.


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