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Delaware County Meals Program Takes Care Of Pets Too

In Delaware county, about a third of the budget for the Council for Older Adults is spent providing and delivering food....more than 1-point-5 million dollars in 2010. Now, through its Meals on Wheels program, the council is also providing pet food for some of its clients who otherwise would have to make a tough choice. Every Friday,  volunteer Julie Barnett drives from her home near Polaris to the Delaware County senior complex on Cheshire road. She delivers hot meals to elderly men and women. Some are disabled, almost all of them live alone. "These people in many ways just want to open up to you and they want somebody to talk to and you hear their stories and you become more than just someone that delivers the meal.  Says Barnett. "You become a friend and you get to know them and they want you to get to know them." Barnett says she also gets to know their pets. Among the eight stops on her route, six of the individuals keep dogs or cats in their homes, even if they sometimes struggle to feed the animals.  In response, superviser, Toni Dodge says Meals on Wheels  now provides pet food weekly to some clients. "We have some clients who don't have money to buy the food that they need for their pets, they're struggling and this is one way we can help out and this is just one little tidbit that goes a long way."  Dodge says. Esther Adams is grateful. "Food for dogs are expensive. And when you're on a limited income, I mean, you know, anything that helps, really helps. To me my dog comes first because he's my companion. Without him, I'd be nothing." Says Adams. "I've been disabled, I have a hearing problem too and whenever anyone comes to the door he lets me know." The sentiment is much the same at other stops on the route. Eunice Skeens : "he's a dood dog," and Stanley Smith both say their pets play a central role in their daily lives. Smith holds his Chihuahua as volunteer Barnett and Council superviser Toni Dodge unpack his noon meal and give something for the dog too. Smith says he bought the dog from a neighbor who moved into an apartment that doesn't allow pets. "Of course I'd seen her previously and I thought she was about the cutest thing since Shirley Temple. A lot of people don't know who Shirley Temple is but I go back a little ways. And I was going to figure out how I was going to get that. So, I bought her." Smith says. Dodge says the addition of pet food deliveries allows some pet owners to keep themselves better fed. "So that it helps free up some of their money and it helps them not give some of their food to their pets." Dodge says the pet food program comes at little or no cost to Delaware County taxpayers since most of the pet food is donated. The Council for Older Adults also gets a  $2,5oo grant from a trust dedicated to the well-being of animals. Dodge says that money is used to buy baggies to divvy up the 50 pound bags of pet food into smaller portions.  The largest cost for the Meals on Wheels program is mileage re-imbursements for the volunteers but Dodge says that would be paid whether or not the volunteers deliver pet food.