As of earlier this month, St. Peters city officials said the program has gotten another strong boost going into 2019 from fundraising efforts that are allowing one of the few remaining fresh Meals on Wheels programs in the St. Louis region to continue.
Alderman Jerry Hollingsworth [Ward 2] said at the city’s Board of Aldermen meeting on Dec. 20 that a check for $20,156 raised at annual trivia night on Oct. 19 was presented at a Christmas party on Dec. 19 at the St. Peters Senior Center. The trivia night is hosted by Mayor Len Pagano, the board of aldermen and Central County Fire and Rescue.
City officials said about $20,200 in contributions from St. Peters utility customers through the “Dollar Up” program also was raised in 2018. Residents can elect to include a “dollar up” donation as part of their water and sewer payments. Those donations also fund the Meals on Wheels program.
St. Peters utility customers have contributed $94,251 through the “dollar up” program since its inception in 2012. Some utility customers also have the option of rounding up their utility bill to the next dollar amount. This has raised more than $4,300 this year.
The fundraising effort began as a result of the state and federal budget cuts that began in 2011.
“Federal and state governments, they mismanage our tax dollars incredibly,” Hollingsworth said in an interview. “What happens is that with people with disabilities and seniors, they go to their programs and that’s where they start cutting and that’s what happened with the Meals on Wheels program.” He said St. Peters and possibly one other senior center deliver hot meals in the St. Louis region.
“What happens is that [most programs] are delivering five frozen meals on Monday,” he said. “Some seniors are going to struggle with how to heat them. Do they have a microwave? Can they open the packaging?
“Probably even more important is by delivering that one time a week [seniors] lose the human touch they get with delivering on a daily basis. Sometimes that’s the only touch with the outside world that some of these seniors have. The meal is secondary.”
Hollingsworth lauded the role and contributions of the Central County Fire and Rescue, saying their help has been critical to the success of the annual trivia night, which has raised more than $20,000 annually for the last few years.
Central County also has provided back up for volunteer drivers delivering meals. If there is, say, a four-inch snowfall that may discourage volunteers many who are seniors and shy about driving in snow, Central County personnel often deliver meals, Hollingsworth said. “Those guys are incredible.”
Central County personnel and volunteers deliver meals prepared by the St. Peters Senior Center. On the day of the Christmas party, 205 meals were delivered. Hollingsworth said it used to be that 150 to 160 meals were delivered daily but the number has gone up dramatically.
“For a sleepy community between two giants, O’Fallon and St. Charles, we do a pretty good job. I’m sounding like Mayor Pagano for God’s sake,” Hollingsworth said with a laugh. “You know what, he’s a great ambassador for our city.”
Hollingsworth added that St. Peters is a giving community with great volunteers. “We keep trudging down the road, doing what needs to be done,” he said.
Some of the ways St. Peters raises money are being copied by other communities around the state. In 2014, the city’s voluntary “dollar up” program was recognized by the Missouri Municipal League.
Hollingsworth said he’s gotten no indication yet if state funding for Meals on Wheels faces new cuts. The Missouri General Assembly will have new members in the coming legislative session and “I don’t know what this new batch of guys is facing as far as deficits,” he said.
“I don’t see it dying as long as we keep promoting and pushing it,” he said. However, like a lot of nonprofit efforts, Hollingsworth said there is a continuing need for young and new volunteers – and he put in a plea for help from some of the largest companies coming into the city. “Just a shout out to our new neighbors at Amazon, if you have any charitable feelings in your bones, I would be more than happy to come to talk to you about the Meals on Wheels program in St. Peters.
“We would greatly appreciate it.”