While the COVID-19 pandemic has decreased the amount of rides the Special and Aging Needs (SPAN) program has provided residents over the last few months, another service has become even more valuable.
Officials from the Denton County transportation service said its Meals on Wheels program has experienced an increase in clients since the spring. Many of its clients have been unable to get out to get food or had relied on the senior center for its weekday meals. The pandemic forced the closure of the senior center.
Tuesday, The Colony City Council made sure that service continues as it approved a service contract with SPAN for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The amount of the contract is much less than previous years because SPAN was able to use funding from the federal CARES Act to secure money for transportation. So instead of requesting the $125,000 from the city as it did last year, SPAN requested $15,000.
“In the past the ask amount has been quite a bit higher,” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Richard Boyer said. “One of the questions I’ve asked, and others have asked, too, is what other funding source have you gone after. I’m very happy that they saw that opportunity to take advantage of CARE Act funding and were able to get that substantial amount.”
The $15,000 contract includes $7,500 for senior center trips once it reopens, plus $7,500 for Meals on Wheels funding.
Ridership to the senior center dropped considerably once COVID-19 hit as the center shut down in March. According to data from SPAN, there were 122 trips to the center in February. That number dropped to 47 in March. There haven’t been any since then.
Kristine Herrera, who heads Meals on Wheels with SPAN, said many of the residents who had been going to the senior center are now receiving home delivered meals through Meals on Wheels.
“And we’re still adding people daily to the program,” Herrera said, adding that residents ages 60 and older can get five meals delivered on Mondays.
Herrera said while SPAN drivers see the customers on Mondays for Meals on Wheals, they are calling the seniors on Wednesdays and Fridays to check on them.
Mayor Pro Tem David Terre said he was happy the council is able to continue funding the Meals on Wheels portion of SPAN’s services, especially with the senior center not being available.
“Meals on Wheels is really important in taking care of our seniors,” Terre said. “And the fact that they don’t have any interaction … it’s really been tough on them not being able to go to the senior center and not only have a meal but be able to interact with the folks there.”