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Email to the Editor: Neighbors Feeding Neighbors Saves Lives

Organizers for Neighbors Feeding Neighbors explain why it is much more than a simple meal program.

Thank you Enumclaw Fire Capt. Randy Fehr for pointing out our program in a recent Courier-Herald Letter to the Editor (Jan. 15, 2013).

The importance of a hand-delivered, hot meal became evident the first week the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation’s Neighbors Feeding Neighbors Senior Meal Program started January 2.

As Capt. Fehr explained volunteers came to a seniors home to deliver her meal, knocked and waited. She did not answer. They continued to knock. Following their training, they rapped on several windows until they heard a cry for help from inside. The quick-thinking volunteers called 911 and alerted Senior Meal Program directors. Paramedics credited those NFN volunteers with saving her life.

“If the program wasn’t there I’m pretty sure she would have passed that night,” Fehr said.

Fehr wasn’t aware of the program, but said he was impressed.

“I think it’s a great thing to get behind,” Fehr said, mentioning it’s important for neighbors to check regularly on the seniors living nearby.

Neighbors Feeding Neighbors is a partnership between ERHF, Enumclaw Senior Center, Enumclaw Youth and Family Services, Enumclaw School District and dedicated volunteers to help meet the hunger needs of our senior and youth population.

It is the latest of the Foundation’s five Task Forces, which the ERHF began forming in the 1990s when the board decided to broaden its focus on the greater community’s healthcare needs. The series of Community Health Summits that followed resulted in ERHF’s Rainier Foothills Community Network Coalition, which currently oversees task forces in the areas of youth substance abuse, violence prevention, mental health, hunger and access to healthcare.

When the county said it would be eliminating funding for our local hot meal delivery program Dec. 31, 2012, it didn’t sit well with the community. Even though the program would continue with frozen meals, . Through the senior center kitchen hot meals are produced and delivered three times a week. Each delivery includes a picnic meal for the following day for a total of six meals a week.

A listening ear, offering encouragement, sharing laughter, opening a stubborn lid, helping to communicate specific needs and heading off potential problems, offered one volunteer, this is the difference between a frozen meal dropped off to be reheated later and a hot meal delivered by a friendly face.

“It could have been a totally different outcome if it had not been for those volunteers,” said Donna Elzenga with the Enumclaw Senior Center, who reported the senior is doing well.

The program started small, but continues to grow and is expected to increase as the economy continues to flounder and the population continues to age. According to AARP statistics nearly 9 million Americans 50 years old or older are at risk for hunger each day. Due to the current economic situation, this number has seen a 79 percent increase in eight years.

Enumclaw’s elderly community is 14.9 percent of the population. Since its inception in the 1970s, the center has delivered approximately 41,690 meals to homes. In November 2012, Plateau Outreach Ministries (POM) reported 16 percent of its food bank clients were older than 55 years of age.

The program is self-supported through donations and grants. Each meal costs $5, which the Foundation is asking those seniors or their families who are able, to pay, but there are many who cannot pay and will not be turned away. A donation of $5 provides one meal. A donation of $30 feeds a senior for a week. Gifts, all tax-deductible, may be made to the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation by calling 360-802-3026, by mail P.O. Box 905, Enumclaw, 98022, or by visiting the website at www.enumclawrhf.org.

“If you’re going to support a charity, that’s a great one to get behind,” Fehr said.

Those who know a senior who could benefit from the program may call 360-825-4741 for information.

Editor's Note: This article was submitted by the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation.

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