GREAT FALLS — Cascade County Aging Services officials are working hard to ensure senior citizens have the essentials they need.
Director Kim Thiel-Schaaf says their food delivery program Meals On Wheels has seen a dramatic increase since the COVID-19 pandemic started. She says drivers delivered 1,819 meals during the last week of February, compared to more than 2,426 meals two weeks ago.
“Our smallest delivery route is around 55 meals,” she said.
Thiel-Schaff says they’ve moved seven people from Aging Services to Meals on Wheels to accommodate the boost in deliveries. “Since March, we’re up on average about 50-75 people a day,” she said.
Aging Services recently received funding from the federal CARES Act to help continue operations while at-risk staff members are staying at home. “I believe I employ the oldest employee in the county,” she said. “He’s 83 years old.”
The money is not part of the $1.25 billion appropriated to the state, but comes from CARES Act legislation that allocated money to DPHHS programs like the Older Americans Act.
“The Older Americans Act is what we do all day every day even before Covid-19,” she said.
The $25,821 boost is only half of the total sum; Thief-Schaaf says they’ll use the other half after July first for meal deliveries and rising food costs. “Supplies are getting hard to find so that money will help us reach out into the marketplace farther and get meat, veggies, we’re having trouble with chicken and pork right now like everybody else,” she said. “So we’ve having to develop some alternatives, plant-based meals, that sort of thing.”
She said the department will also see around $35,000 for respite caregiver funds after July.
Cascade County Aging Services delivers hot and cold meals to residents around the county five days a week and around holidays.
Staff are out delivering hot meals to seven routes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and cold meals Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am-2 pm.
“In addition to the hot meals we have about 20 people who are nutritionally frail,” she said. “We just don’t feel comfortable with them not having a weekend meal so on Fridays we take them two frozen ones to make sure that they have something to eat.”
There are two sights at the Belt and Cascade Senior Centers that also deliver meals to area residents.
Out of town frozen food boxes are distributed to Fort Shaw, Sun River Valley, Ulm and the Stockett/Sand Coulee areas on Fridays.
The Aging Services Department is located at 1801 Benefis Court and all programs can be accessed by calling 406-454-6990; hours of operation are from 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday through Friday with the exception of Holidays. Click here to visit the website.