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We are back to Answers for Elders and I am very excited to have Annie Atherton here, who’s the marketing and communications manager at Sound Generations. They are a nonprofit organization here in the greater King County area and they are our purveyor, I guess, right now, main purveyor for the Meals on Wheels program and Annie, thank you so much for being here. Thank you, I Annie. I know that we’ve been working together for quite some time and I know that there’s a lot of information right now circulating like crazy on social media and the news about meals on wheels and different types of community programs with the new budget cuts that are out there, and so I really was hoping that we would have an opportunity to just visit about yes, we know what is happening on a national level, but what’s happening here in Seattle? Yeah, thank you, I appreciate that. I it’s true. There is a lot coming out in the news, some of it accurate, some of it not, and a lot of people are very, very upset, justifiably, about the threat to programs that hurt seniors in this country. And the fact is, you know, it’s very early stages for this proposal. So in terms of how we here in can county will be affected it, it’s hard to say. But to give people a little bit of context about our local Meals on Wheels program so Sound Generations as an organization serving older adults as well as adults with disabilities and those who care for them throughout King County. Meals on Wheels is one of our largest programs. It’s been around for many, many years, right. We deliver more than four hundred thousand meals a year with the help of hundreds of volunteer that’s just here in Seattle. That’s in counting King County. Four hundred thousand meals, yes, wow, yeah, yeah, we we wouldn’t be able to do that without a fleet of volunteers as well. So we have staff drivers and we have volunteer drivers and you know, it’s a really trusted program it’s a really vital program. Huge number of the people who receive this service our homebound. They cannot leave their homes because they have a chronic illness or disability, right and many live on a very low incomes. So this program is really a lifeline to more than just food but somebody to come in and check on them, somebody to make sure that they’re okay. You know, and I’ve heard so often Annie, that in many cases with seniors that are isolated, their only linked to the outside world is that volunteer that shows up with their meals, you know, a couple days a week or whatever that is. You know, I’m sure that happens all over the place here. That’s absolutely right. I mean it’s it’s unfortunate, but many people do not have family nearby to help them or anyone to regularly check. Just last week we had actually a somebody from the downtown area call us to thank us because a driver had showed up at his residence and found that a resident there was had fallen and for hours she just been there and he was the delivery driver. Was the person who noticed this and then contacted a social worker got help for this person. But that happens all the time. Wow. So yes, it’s very important in many more ways than just providing sure, a meal, sure, and and you know the people there’s there’s a lot of buzz in the news that Oh it’s been great because there’s a lot of donations going into meals on wheels now that they find out that we’re going to lose it. But how does that really affect our local Meals on Wheels? Yeah, that’s a great question. There is confusion. So we at sound generations are a part of Meals and Wheels America in terms of advocacy and resources research that they provide. But in terms of funding, we are a local organization. We are right independently operated. So donations intended to serve people here in King County would need to be directed towards the words, to our low generations. That yeah, that’s yes, and it all goes directly back to community. So you know we now sound animations. Used to be called senior services. That’s right, and then you made a name change. When did that happen? Yeah, that happened a little over a year ago. It is now our fifty anniversary. We’ve been in King County here for fifty years. So very proud to be still operating and going strong. But we do have a new name. However, all of the programs are essentially the same. Same, and when you say all the programs, tell me a little bit about some of the programs that you offer for seniors. Yeah, so some of our programs like Meals on Wheels are directly to help people who are homebound. There’s that one. We have a volunteer transportation program so that connects people who need rights to the doctor or the dentists or other appointments with a volunteer driver. We have a high shuttle program that serves a similar function. We have a community dining program for those who are able to leave their homes and they can get out to senior centers and sites and be in a social environment but still have a very affordable nutritious meal. And you said senior centers. You even operate some senior centers here. Yes, that’s right. We have seven community partner sites throughout King County and they run a lot of the programs that we operate. Two in addition to the ones I mentioned. There’s a health and fitness there is social work provided. We have a minor home repair program and then one that is lesser known is we have a free information and assistance hotline that people can call at any time for to get connected to resources and people are encouraged to call that if they are older or not. People of all ages can well for their parents or grandparents and many often do. We would love to put that number on the you know, on our website. But do you have that number handy? I bet you’re looking it up right now there as yeah, yeah, so one resource as that you anyone who needs help can go to our website at any time. That is SoundGenerations.org, as in SoundGenerations.org, and that is one way to find a quick way to find information. You can also, of course, email info@SoundGenerations.org or call, and that number is (206) 448-3110. And if somebody wants to donate, they can also do that on your website as well, can they? Absolutely. That is the easiest way to donate. There’s a big button right at the top. Awesome, awesome. So let’s get back to Meals on Wheels. Yeah, obviously you know with this, but with the budget cuts it represents a lot more than the meals on wheels that could potentially go away. That’s right. Yes, so it Meals on Wheels is funded by something called the Older Americans Act, and in this budget proposal there has been a proposed 17.9 percent cut to US Department of Health and Human Services, wow, which the older and Americans act is a part of and you know, it is unclear what would happen, but it’s experts have said that there’s almost no way that all of the programs that you know helps depend on it. Yeah, a particularly for a low-income people would not be affected and that people who rely on services like this would be very endangered. Wow. So when people say Meals on Wheels is only, you know, three percent of the funding, or whatever, three million dollars, it’s a lot bigger than that, isn’t it? It’s smart like this. It covers many more different types of services and just meals on wheels is just a part of it. Yes, that’s correct. So that’s something that obviously not everybody understands. And Yeah, so these cuts to although you are locally based, you’re relying on federal funding in many cases for a lot of these other types of programs. Absolutely, Wow. Wow. And so this has been a difficult time, obviously for you guys to because in the last year you also lost some funding from united way. That’s right. Yes, tell me a little bit about that. Yes, so several years ago united way, which had been a very long time funder of our organization, decided to revisit its priorities and unfortunately came to the conclusion that it would cut funding for all senior programs. So that is not just Sound Generations, that is many other organizing right that were affected and in total it amount to do about eight hundred thousand lost over several years. My God. Yeah, so, you know, it has been a big adjustment and and a challenge. Yeah, so you’re serving 400,000 meals. How are you getting funding right now? Yeah, that’s a great question we have. You know, we do get government funding. We also are very grateful to receive a lot of donations from our community. Those, you know, some foundations, some corporate funders, but really a lot of individual jewels, partially because Meals on Wheels is so well known, because it’s been around in this country for 45 years and people trust it so well that, you know, we it would not be possible without donations, I can even imagine. So obviously this is a really important initiative in our community and if we don’t have services like this, I can’t imagine what could happen to our seniors. But it’s it’s just overwhelming to me. It is, it’s it is very scary to think about what would happen where we can not have programs like this. And you know, you you talk about 400,000 meals. I’m just curious. Every single meal has to be down to you know, how much does each meal cost? You have people that are cooking the meal, you have different people that are putting it all together. Excuse me, we also, I know that I’ve had some feedback. Many of our Seahawk legends have actually gone in the vans and ridden with your volunteers and they share stories of, you know, just the dedication of the staff most most importantly, that they have with these seniors that are on their route. I mean some of them have been there for years. It’s my understanding. Yes, yeah, that’s that’s absolutely right and that is we’re so glad that the Seahawks have the chance to do that. I know we’ve worked, Suzanne and I have worked together on the Twelve Days of GOodness campaign during the holidays for several years and it gives Seahawk, Seahawks alum, the opportunity to go visit with some of these folks. Yeah, but that’s absolutely right that the delivery drivers, many of have been doing it for many years and very dedicated to the program. Amazing. So if someone here in the community could help, you say you have an opportunity for volunteers, what would they do to volunteer? What are the opportunities? Yeah, so we you know, we do have volunteers work as delivery drivers. That’s always something that people can look into. It’s kind of a buy needed basis, depending on location. But there is a lot of other ways. You can volunteer at a senior center one of our community partner sites. You can help out with the community dining program I mentioned earlier, checking people in serving the food. I can be a really rewarding way to also be part of a community. A lot many of many of our volunteers are seniors themselves and gives people a way to stay involved and sure. Well, Annie, I’m so glad you came and declare kind of the little bit of the confusion and we hope to that we can, as a community, can continue to support the wonderful work you do. Thank you for coming in. Thank you so much.
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Originally published April 01, 2017