Food no longer being sent to Southwest City senior center

SOUTHWEST CITY, Mo. – Lark Hallum drives from Colcord, Oklahoma to Southwest City almost every day to spend time with her friends, that she considers family.

“I just love the people here,” says Hallum.

Another big draw to the center is the hot meal that’s served there every day.

“A lot of people depend on it. Maybe that’s the only meal they have, that hot meal at noon,” explains Hallum.

But, that meal is something that’s about to end.

“Sometimes you have to make the tough choice,” says Jennifer Shotwell, the CEO of Area Agency on Aging Region X.

Starting on January 1st, 2020, the Area Agency on Aging will stop taking food to the center.

The Area Agency on Aging used to run both the Southwest City senior center and a center in Lanagan. But in 2009, they closed both Southwest City and Lanagan to focus on the center in Noel.

The city then started running the center in Southwest City.

To help with that transition, they started sending food to Southwest City from Noel, which has continued since.

Shotwell says it was a hard decision, but they can’t afford to do that anymore because of budgetary and statutory constraints, and an increasing number of seniors entering the program that are homebound.

“We found that for the first time in many years, we looked at the possibility of waitlisting clients. Unfortunately, waitlists happen with homebound individuals. And we just cannot continue to ship bulk food over to Southwest City, and have people on waiting lists,” says Shotwell.

She also says everyone from Southwest City is invited to go to the center in Noel, and that she has asked OATS to increase their routes between the two.

But patrons at the center are facing another challenge.

“I don’t think that that affected me as much as thinking that the center might close,” says Hallum.

Budget issues in Southwest City have caused the city council to look at cutting funding for the center altogether.

“Just the un-surety has discouraged some of our regular attendants. I think that there are those of us that are involved in the center that are.. we’re gonna do whatever we can do to keep the center open,” says Southwest City Senior Center board member Robin Reichardt.

So while people like Hallum are going into the new year facing an unknown, they are going to try to find a way to keep the center open and serve meals to anyone that needs help.

“It’s been a senior center for as long as I can remember. I would like to see that continue,” says Hallum.

According to Shotwell, the Southwest City senior center served food to around a dozen people a day.