Meals on Wheels merging Manchester, Arlington sites

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Readers: This story was updated at 3 p.m. Saturday to correct the name of Meals on Wheels executive director Ilsa Svoboda.

MANCHESTER — Meals on Wheels of Bennington County is merging its Manchester and Arlington lunchtime meal sites at Bailey Hall on Ice Pond Road in East Arlington, while home deliveries in the Northshire will continue, executive director Ilsa Svoboda said.

The move comes because the Manchester site, at the town offices at 3609 Main St., was not drawing enough patrons to justify the cost of a full-time employee and the lease with the town, Svoboda said.

Meals on Wheels has been leasing space in the Kilburn Meeting Room at town hall. where meals were being served on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But the lunches were poorly attended, drawing an average of two clients on Tuesdays and six on Thursdays, Svoboda said.

The last meal at the Manchester site will be served on Tuesday, Oct. 31, Svoboda said.

Town manager John O'Keefe said Meals on Wheels has been paying $2,100 per year to lease the space.

The agency's goal is to feed seniors however it can in an affordable way, Svoboda said. "But right now for two seniors to come to the site it's not affordable for us. We can get those meals to clients, but financially between rent, gas and staffing it doesn't pay to a pay full-time staffer if two people show up for lunch."

One of the benefits of Meals on Wheels is that whether clients receive food at home or at a meal site, it offers an opportunity for seniors to enjoy social interaction — either with the volunteer delivering at their home or with volunteers and other seniors at a meal site.

That socialization was lacking in Manchester with so few clients attending, and a merged site in Arlington will allow more opportunity for seniors to meet and talk, Svoboda said.

"We feel the merge is a good thing for socialization," she said. "The merged site will have more people attending and more people getting nutritional meals."

Other Manchester locations were considered, but none of them worked out, she said.

Meals on Wheels of Bennington County board member Seline Skoug said Svoboda presented the merger plan to the board and that it met with approval. "It absolutely makes sense," Skoug said. "This way we make sure there's a safety net for these folks, so they won;t lose service."

"Elsa and her team do a great job of delivering thousands of meals, freshly made, and we want to keep doing that," Skoug added.

The town will continue to offer use of the Town Hall building, free of cost, as an exchange location for meals to be delivered throughout the area, O'Keefe said. Also, it's possible that Meals on Wheels might occasionally use the Park House at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, he said.

"We'd like to continue working with them," he said.

Meals on Wheels lunches are served at Bailey Hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, and reservations are requested. Call (802) 362-3714.


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