California budget cuts could take bite out of local senior meals

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May 18—For the last few years, Grace & Mercy Charitable Foundation has been keeping homebound and disabled seniors fed by delivering dozens of hot meals to their door.

This past year, the nonprofit organization was providing 14 meals a week to 60 clients through the SOS — Save Our Seniors program.

But when Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced plans to make major budget cuts, the foundation was hit with terrible news.

Cheryl Francis, founder of the organization, said she stands to lose about $300,000 in grant funding from the California Department of Aging due to the cuts.

She said starting July 1 — the start of the new fiscal year when Newsom's proposed cuts would take effect — she'll have to cut her client list to 50 and deliver only 12 meals a week.

"I'm grateful to the Department of Aging for everything they've done," Francis said. "They have nothing to do with this. It's the state that put them in this situation."

Despite the looming cuts, Francis still wants to donate food to all the seniors she is currently serving. Along with the prepared meals, she and her volunteers will provide extras to clients such as yogurt, cheese and crackers, milk, orange juice, or any kind of healthy snack that will add to their balanced diets.

However, continuing to do so will mean costs will come out of her own pocket and not the grant she has relied on for many years.

"It's scary," she said. "One of the questions that's been asked is what happens if we can't keep all of our clients in our program. We've been told they'd be absorbed into other programs, and that's it. We haven't really been given an answer, and I don't think anybody can do (what we do)."

The LOEL Center and Meals on Wheels also provide food to homebound seniors, but Francis said if she's facing cuts, so will those nonprofits. On Friday, LOEL officials said they are facing a 10% cut.

That means more seniors left without food, Francis said.

She's hoping the Lodi community will once again step up and provide some much needed assistance, either monetarily, or through manpower.

Francis said the foundation has plenty of food, but it doesn't have enough volunteers to deliver, and won't have enough to pay full-timers.

She said the foundation is considering charging a nominal fee to clients to make and deliver the food, but an amount for service has not been sent.

"Our seniors are not going to get what they need to maintain their health," she said. "They have to have meals."

Monetary donations are always accepted as well, and can be mailed or delivered to the foundation at 435 N. Sacramento St., Lodi, Calif., 95240.

The foundation will also host its drive-thru BBQ fundraiser from 1:30-5 p.m. on Saturday, May 25. For $35 per person, you can have barbecued ribs, chicken, baked beans, green beans, corn on the cob, salad, garlic bread and a lemon cupcake.

To donate, volunteer, or for more information, call 925-864-0183, or visit gracemercyfoundation.com.