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St. Peters residents urged to round up utility bills to help area seniors

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA St. Peters alderman is asking city residents to add a little more money to their utility bills to help ensure that homebound seniors continue to receive hot meals.

Alderman Jerry Hollingsworth (Ward 2) told his fellow aldermen on April 23 that revenue from the city’s round-up utility billing program is down a bit so far this year.

Those voluntary donations help fund the city’s Meals on Wheels program, which provides about 150 hot meals each day to St. Peters seniors. Additional funding comes from a  trivia night event the city sponsors in conjunction with Central County Fire and Rescue. But federal and state budget cuts have and continue to threaten the program. In 2012, Hollingsworth and other aldermen came up with the idea of giving utility customers the option to donate to the program by simply rounding up their utility payments to the next dollar amount – or donating a higher dollar amount.

Since then, customers have marked a box on their bi-monthly bills for water, sewer and trash and, in so doing, contributed about $70,000 in three years. The Missouri Municipal League presented St. Peters with its 2014 Innovation Award, recognizing the city’s utility round-up program and other communities are emulating its success.

Through the first quarter of this year, St. Peters residents have donated $2,810 through the round-up program, with $1,070 donated in March, Hollingsworth said. But, while those donations are impressive, the total so far this year is actually down about $300.

Hollingsworth cited estimates that if each of the city’s 16,000 utility customers would add 25 cents to their payments the Meals on Wheels program would be fully funded.

The St. Peters program is unique because it is one of the few Meals on Wheels programs in the St. Louis region that still provides daily hot meals Monday throgh Friday. Because of federal and state budget cuts, some communities have moved to delivering five frozen meals once a week.

Hollingsworth said the seniors who receive the meals also receive an added benefit. Because families are busy, he said, many of those seniors don’t get many visitors.

“Those hot, delivered meals sometimes are the only touch with the outside world that those people get,” Hollingsworth said.

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