Meals on Wheels finds new home

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MANCHESTER — Manchester's seniors will now have a new location to enjoy their bi-weekly Meals on Wheels lunches following criticism of the organization's decision to merge their Arlington and Manchester meal sites.

The Manchester Community Library has offered to host Meals on Wheels of Bennington County for lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. beginning Tuesday, Nov. 7.

"When I read about the situation that had recently unfolded, and the number of seniors who had been displaced, I thought that the library could easily absorb a handful of people at lunchtime," said the library's executive director, Betsy Bleakie, in an email Saturday morning. "Then seniors could stay and read a magazine, work on a puzzle, or attend an afternoon program or film."

Citing low attendance at the lunches held at Manchester's Town Offices, a space that cost $2,100 per year to lease, Executive Director Ilsa Svoboda of Meals on Wheels of Bennington County announced in late October that the site would be closed after Oct. 31.

Reporting an average of two seniors in attendance on Tuesdays and six on Thursdays, a number called into question by attendees at the Oct. 31 lunch, Svoboda said that the low attendance numbers did not justify the cost of the lease among other expenses.

Though meals would continue to be delivered in Manchester, and transportation would be provided to the Arlington meal site at Bailey Hall on Ice Pond Road, the announcement led to a heated debate during the final meal held at Manchester's Town Offices last week.

"I'm just so grateful that somebody heard our voices," Svoboda said. "Now, I'm encouraging the seniors to attend. The more numbers I have the better."

The move allows local seniors to maintain an integral aspect of the program articulated by those in attendance at the Oct. 31 meeting — the opportunity to socialize with one another, without having to leave their hometown.

"The library is already geared to be a gathering place for the community," Bleakie said. "The addition of a midday meal to some socializing and stimulating opportunities for some of our seniors seemed like a no-brainer."

"It's a beautiful setting," Svoboda said. "Hopefully, this will turn it all around."



Reach Cherise Madigan at cmadigan@manchesterjournal.com, or by phone at 802-490-6471.

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