One Good Meal, based in Lee’s Summit, has been delivering lunches to seniors for 20 years and has more clients that ever. The main benefit is the daily social interaction with clients, said Executive Director Roberta McArthur.
“That’s what One Good Meal does,” McArthur told Jackson County legislators earlier this month during budget deliberations.
She outlined the group’s efforts, including plans for backpacks for seniors like the programs in which many schools distribute backpacks with food on Fridays so kids in hungry homes can make it through the weekend. She said money from the county makes a difference for her agency and that her clients are in significant need.
“Most of the people I deliver to right now can’t afford their food,” she said.
But One Good Meal will have to get by with a little less next year. The group got $25,000 from the county in 2015 and asked for the same in 2016, but county legislators – balancing requests from nearly five dozen groups – trimmed that figure to $20,000.
The county’s $305.2 million budget for 2016 includes $3.54 million for outside agencies, up $208,899, or 6.3 percent, from 2015. Most agencies, including several in Eastern Jackson County, got the same as in 2015. A handful, such as One Good Meal, got less, and some got more. Altogether, those agencies had asked for a total of $5.32 million.
“I wish we could work with all of the non-profits that provide services to our constituents,” said Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, the Legislature’s budget chair.
Part of the legislators’ approach, she said, is putting the money where it will do to the most good to address a range of needs from hunger to medical care to youth and senior services.
“I think that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” she said.
About half of the agencies mostly serve Kansas City, about one-fourth are in Eastern Jackson County, and the rest work across the county or the entire metro area. Among Eastern Jackson County agencies:
• The Community Services League got $10,000, the same as in 2015. It had asked for $20,000.
• The NorthWest CDC, which runs the senior center and related programs in Fairmount in Independence, got $60,000, the same as in 2015. It had requested $65,000.
• The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City was trying to get $30,000 – but got none – for its programs in Independence. President David Smith told legislators its programs in the arts, education, technology, public speaking and health have a simple focus: Every youth will graduate from high school and have a post-secondary plan.
• Lee’s Summit Underwater Rescue, a volunteer group that helps police across the metro area, got $15,000, the same as in 2015. It requested $18,500.
• The Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association in Independence was among the agencies getting first-time funding – $25,000. It requested $62,216.
• River of Refuge is opening apartments soon in a wing of the old Park Lane Medical Center on Raytown Road. The group serves families living in pay-by-the-week hotels and tries to get them out of what John Wiley, the group’s founder, calls “that one-room world.”
“This is not an inner-city problem,” Wiley said. “This is a communitywide, citywide – I won’t say problem, I’ll say opportunity.”
River of Refuge got $50,000, up from $25,000 in 2015, but had sought $243,000.
• Great Plains SPCA, which runs the Regional Animal Shelter in Independence, got $230,000 for medical care, up from $180,000. President and CEO Courtney Thomas said the average cost of treating a dog or cat surrendered to the shelter is $350. She said its spay-and-neuter program has reduced the number of cats coming in.
Several of these outside agencies have operations that touch most or all of the metro area. One is Harvesters, the food bank in Kansas City that provides food to dozens of pantries across 26 counties. About 42 percent of its food goes to Jackson County.
Harvesters relies on donations but Joanna Sebelien, chief resource officer, said demand is up and the group is having to buy more food. It got $60,000 for 2016, the same as this year but less than the $100,000 it requested.
Sebelien said more and more of the clients the group serves are having to decide between buying food and paying other bills, and she said that affects children especially.
“This in many ways, I think, impacts the health of the community,” she said.
• The Kansas CIty Sports Commission, which plans two hockey clinics in Independence in April, got $3,500, the same as in 2015 but less than the $6,000 requested.
• Children’s Mercy Hospital, which has a clinic in Independence, got $100,000, the same as in 2015 but less than the $597,620 requested.
• Swope Health Services, which has a clinic in Independence, got $254,188, the same as in 2015 but less than the $354,040 requested. That’s for a variety of programs, including one in Independence to address low-birth-weight babies.