Valorie Eversole Daily Union Editor
Shelbyville Daily Union
---- — Area residents, who receive nutritious meals through Peace Meal, will see no change in the way the program operates when its administration transitions to Sarah Bush Lincoln on October 1.
The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) reversed an earlier decision by East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging (ECIAAA) and awarded the administration and funding of the Peace Meal program to Sarah Bush Lincoln.
“We’re pleased with this new decision. Our plans are to keep Peace Meal completely intact. It has a 40-year successful track record of providing home-delivered nutritious meals, as well as serving them in congregate settings. This is an important link to keeping people healthy, and making sure those who are home bound, are safe,” said Dennis Pluard, Sarah Bush Lincoln vice president of Operations.
Pluard added that Peace Meal will continue with its four-day-a-week delivery system, but will investigate the opportunity to bring back the five-day-a-week program. Barbra Wylie, who has led the program for seven years, will continue as its director. Its 100 employees, mostly part-time employees, will become Sarah Bush Lincoln employees, as well, on October 1.
Pluard heralded the area residents who voiced their opinions, held rallies and petition drives and spoke with their State delegation, including State Rep. Chapin Rose, who advocated on their behalf following the decision to award the program to CRIS of Danville. CRIS planned to deliver frozen meals to area residents.
State Senator Chapin Rose commented about an Illinois Department of Aging special review process.
“After attending sessions in Clinton and Sullivan where, literally, hundreds of seniors and senior care support staff voiced concerns and spoke in opposition to the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging decisions with respect to this matter, I asked the Department of Aging to conduct an outside, independent review of the situation,” Rose said. “Several other legislators also asked for intervention from the Department in addition to numerous members of the senior care community and complaints from those directly affiliated with program.”
Senator Rose also added, “ I appreciate the Department conducting its special investigation into this matter in response to these calls for an outside review. Having seen the lengthy report from this process, it is easy to understand why the Department is taking the action that it is.”
“I am very happy that the Illinois Department on Aging has overturned the decision to change senior nutrition services in East Central Illinois to a frozen meal program,” said State Representative Adam Brown. “Peace Meals will continue to provide hot meals to seniors after October 1st. Thank you to all the seniors, caregivers, community members, service providers and legislators who made this happen.”
“We’re very excited they decided to continue with hot meals. Senator Rose was extremely instrumental in helping us with the Department on Aging,” said Shelby County Senior Center director MaryBeth Massey.
“We were looking for another way to continue on our own locally. We had plans in place to continue hot meals.” she said.
Massey added that there will be a volunteer at the homes once a day to check on Peace Meal recipients. “The welfare checks on people is more important than the hot meals. I don’t think frozen meals will be in Shelby County’s future.”
Rose also noted the value of the work of the volunteers who deliver the meals.
“There were are two things to consider,” Rose said. “One, the CRIS program wouldn’t be ready by October 1, but more important the loss of personal contact would be felt. For some people that is the only contact they have that day. It’s important to maintain that physical contact to check on a person’s well being. To think one of your peace meal workers saved one of your citizens recently shows the importance of that contact.”
Peace Meals will still be served at the Senior Center in addition to the home deliveries. The meals are open to people ages 60 and over for a suggested donation of $3.50 per meal.
“We’d love to have people come and give us a try,” Massey said.
In the one-year contract, Sarah Bush Lincoln will receive nearly $1.3 million from the State to operate the 14-county program, while the cost to run the program amount to about $2 million. Peace Meal relies on contributions from program participants and additional funding from numerous local funding agencies, such as United Way.