More seniors in need, fewer donations has JVCC's snowflake program struggling to provide meals
For the seniors who benefit from the program, Jessica Pickett said it’s “much more than free meals.”
Donations for the James Valley Community Center’s snowflake hunger program have fallen flat this year, leaving some senior citizens in jeopardy of receiving hot meals.
Mitchell Community Services Director Jessica Pickett said the snowflake hunger program is more than $5,000 behind its goal to feed roughly 100 senior citizens in need of nutritious meals. The program aims to raise money for senior citizens who have come up against financial hardships and are in need of meals by placing snowflakes on the JVCC drive-up window.
“We have more seniors who need the meals but less donations than we did last year, so we need all the help we can get,” she said.
Speckled on the drive-up window are 98 snowflakes with the names of seniors who are in need of donations to afford nutritious meals this holiday season, which Pickett said reflects an increase of six snowflakes compared to 2020.
As of Monday afternoon, $2,670 has been raised for the snowflake program, marking a decrease of about $2,000 from the same time period in 2020. To provide all 98 seniors with a punch card that comes with 20 free nutritious meals, the JVCC needs to raise $7,840 this year.
“The meals have the daily required nutritional intake, and the need to eat healthier meals is more important than ever with COVID-19,” Pickett said.
While many people in the Mitchell area gave back to those in need during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, Pickett noted there are plenty of seniors around who are still struggling to financially recover. She pointed to the increase in snowflakes as an example of that.
In past years, the JVCC set up a Christmas tree in the lobby area with ornaments of the seniors who are in need of donations to afford a JVCC meal punch card. However, COVID-19 prompted her to come up with the window snowflakes.
For the seniors who benefit from the program, Pickett said it’s “much more than free meals.” She said it provides them with an opportunity to continue walking through the doors of the JVCC to gather and converse.
After battling through the pandemic over the past couple years and going months without gathering in person, Pickett said spending time together is a vital component for seniors’ health.
“This pandemic has made people of all ages very depressed. A lot of elderly people were shut in for a long time last year, which has a big impact on their health,” she said. “The donations for the program allow them to get together and keep their spirits up.”
More importantly, Pickett said, the program keeps track of the welfare of the aging population in Mitchell during the winter months. Last year, Pickett said the meal program led to a welfare check that found a senior who was benefiting from the snowflake donations died in his home.
“We had someone who was not doing so well. When he didn’t show up, we called a family member who called for public assistance to check on him and found that he passed away,” she said. “Nobody would have known he died if he weren’t a part of this program, so it is much more than some free meals.”