With the population graying and with economic insecurity abounding, it is good to know older Fontana residents have a place to go to get a hot meal when they need to.
Organized by Moreno Valley-based Family Service Association, seniors can get low-cost meals at the George White Senior Center, located at 8565 Nuevo Avenue, said Tom Donahue, a program administrator with the organization.
Donahue said the program actually started more than 25 years ago as a way to feed Kaiser Steel workers through an organization called the Oldtimers Foundation, adding they’ve been feeding residents at George White for more than 10 years.
The in-person meals were resumed at George White in July having being paused because of COVID-19 restrictions, Donahue said. He added, though, during the COVID time, his organization didn’t halt working.
“We didn’t stop,” he said. “We adapted to it. We went to a weekly frozen, grab-and-go meal program. We were able to adapt within a couple weeks back in March 2020.”
Donahue said his organization services meals at 15 locations throughout San Bernardino County, with a home-delivery program delivering meals to Fontana residents at three different senior buildings in town.
But he is thrilled the hot lunches are back.
“We do about 30 to 40 people for the hot lunch program,” Donahue said, adding 700 customers are serviced through the homebound program.
So, how do you qualify for services through his organization? Donahue said the qualifications are simple.
“You have to be over the age of 60,” he said. “For the homebound program, they have to be unable to drive or unable to shop or cook for themselves. For the congregant program, it’s more flexible. You just have to be over the age of 60. And then you can come on in for a lunch! We just ask for a donation of whatever you can contribute, anything from $1 to $3. But we’ll never turn anyone away if you cannot donate.”
Not just is the program growing, but it helps with senior issues not related to hunger, Donahue said.
“The senior demographic is the largest demographic growing in the state,” he said. “The goal is two-fold. One is to help with the socialization and isolation. And we also want to connect them to other services. The home delivery program is to reach those who can’t get out of their house. So, we provide that to them. We also do a case management component to that program where we visit them twice a year. And we do a phone call assessment twice a year. So, there are four contacts with us, in addition to the drivers that they see on a weekly basis.”
He also said his organization works with other agencies and groups to help seniors.
“We work with a senior services network through the county Department of Aging and Adult Services, and we connect them to services that are provided through the county and other non-profit agencies,” he said.
In addition, as this demographic grows, Donahue said his organization makes sure no one is left behind.
“We’re all getting older,” he said. “The need for this is greater than ever. It’s scary out there. One of the largest demographics of homelessness is older females. We try to make sure we can keep them in their homes or keep them connected to housing programs.”
Other areas in which the Family Service Association helps seniors is with caregiving, assistance with utilities, small legal issues and even home repairs, Donahue said, adding his organization also spearheads efforts throughout the Inland Empire to promote child development and prevent child abuse as it operates 10 child development centers for day care in Riverside County.
The organization receives 80 percent of its funding through the government, with the rest funded by the people it serves and through private donations, Donahue said.
Persons who would like to make a donation can do so online by going to www.fsaca.org.
And if you would like to volunteer with the group, Donahue said there is always the need.
“A lot of our volunteers are local residents,” he said. “Maybe they started having lunch with us and thought once or twice a week they could help. We’re always looking for volunteers.”