Four years ago, the voters of Montcalm County showed their support for the efforts of the Commission on Aging by passing a .45 millage to help fund the program.
On Tuesday, the commission is hoping voters will vote to continue that funding at the same level.
According to Bob Clingenpeel, the commission’s director, the group’s track record should be enough to convince anyone of the need for its services county-wide.
“The seniors in Montcalm County are some of the neediest throughout the state,” Clingenpeel said. “Most people we serve have incomes of $25,000, or less. Millage funding, once approved by the voters, provides a steady revenue source to fund many of our services and it fills the gap in helping people where State and Federal funding does not cover their needs.
“It also is the primary source for our most expensive service in Montcalm County, the Senior Meals Program,” he said. “This program serves the neediest group of seniors in Montcalm County.”
In addition to being the most expensive program the commission administers, it also is one of the most important. Many of the seniors who take part in the program — about 98 percent — are below the poverty level. For many, the thrice-weekly visit from the Meals driver is their only social contact.
“They get to know the drivers and the drivers get to know them,” Clingenpeel said. “Some are all alone; their family has moved away or their spouse has died. It’s a part of society that somebody has to take care of and we willingly do that, but it’s not really front page news. Some of their stories are very sad.”
For seniors still able to get around, the commission also provides “Congregate Meals” where seniors can get together and enjoy not only a meal, but the company of friends.
The commission provides a host of other services, as well, including day and extended trips, in home caregiver respite, tax assistance, a grocery shopping program, personal care, transportation services and more.
The millage renewal would help fund the program through 2018. The annual cost of the supporting program — for a homeowner with a $100,000 home — would be $45; half that for the owner of a home valued at $50,000.
Clingenpeel said he’s been receiving a lot of positive feedback from county residents and is hopeful the millage renewal will pass easily on May 6. He’s leaving nothing to chance, however; commission staffers have been promoting the proposal since making the decision to put it on May’s ballot.
“I expect turnout to be pretty good,” Clingenpeel said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we had more than 10,000 voters at the polls.”