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Community leaders seek donations for food program
Meals on Wheels has more than 130 on its waiting list
Wyc Orr speaks at the Community Service Center this morning during a press conference announcing an initiative by the city of Gainesville to get private funding for the Meals on Wheels program to help move people off the waiting list.

Seeing the shortage of government funds to prop up the local Meals on Wheels service, a number of local residents and church leaders have opened an account at the North Georgia Community Foundation to fight food insecurity for homebound Hall County residents.

The group announced the new fundraising effort Thursday in a news conference outside the Meals on Wheels kitchen in Gainesville.

Its plan is to move the more than 130 Hall County residents awaiting help from the local Meals on Wheels program to the serving line.

Despite the need, the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, the umbrella organization for Meals on Wheels, has not been able to add new clients to the meal delivery program because of shrinking government funds.

The center's director, Phillippa Lewis Moss, says some of those 132 clients on the waiting list have been waiting for more than a year.

Among those behind the fundraising effort is Wyc Orr, former state legislator and local attorney, and the leaders of both the First Baptist and First Methodist churches of Gainesville.

Orr said the ongoing economic recession has had "disturbing" consequences that have "thrust new demands" on the Meals on Wheels program.

"Few (impacts of the recession), if any, can be more disturbing than hunger," Orr said.

At Thursday's news conference, Orr called on Hall County residents to "step up and make up that deficit" between the government's ability to fund the meal delivery program and the needs of homebound residents to have a nutritious meal delivered.

"Gainesville and Hall County indeed have a long history of helping their own," Orr said.

Contributing to the fund at the North Georgia Community Foundation, he said, would only continue the county's tradition of helping those "who need a helping hand."

The local Community Council on Aging has historically raised money for the program — and still does. But Carol Williams, who heads the area council, said as programs like Meals on Wheels has had less support from government funds, the programs have relied more on the council's fundraising efforts.

The demand has been so high that the council has been using reserve funds to prop up the human service programs, Williams said.

"Our funds are significantly depleted," Williams said. "...This is the first time we've seen such a critical need."

The Meals on Wheels program's $600,000 budget helps it to serve about 350 households, Moss said.

The Community Service Center has other state and federal money available to add people to the meal delivery program, but Moss said the agency needs more money to make sure the meals can be sustained for a full year before accepting it.

To feed another 132 people for a full year would cost the agency another $187,228, Moss said.