Isabella County Commission on Aging teams up with CMU Volunteer Center to donate food to low-income seniors

Planning on higher heating and gas bills this winter, a Mount Pleasant charity will be delivering food to senior citizens this Valentine's Day.

The Isabella County Commission on Aging will donate boxes of food and supplies to about 150 low-income seniors during their annual Have a Heart program. Volunteers will drop off the boxes to the individuals Feb. 11-13.

About 30 CMU volunteers helped out by making valentines to put into the boxes, said Jason Vasquez, CMU Volunteer Center graduate supervisor.

“They made valentines that would be put in the boxes, and then they give them to the community members to wish them a happy Valentine’s Day,” Vasquez said. “It made sense to do it around Valentine’s Day because with Thanksgiving and Christmas, there’s a lot of programs out there to give back to the community. We’re meeting needs around Valentine’s Day when it’s cold outside.”

Brenda Upton, Isabella County Commission on Aging executive director, said the event is 19-years-old.

“We do it in February because a lot of our clients receive special gifts around Christmas time, like baskets of food," she said. "We decided since so many (organizations) do that at Christmas time, nobody did it in February. That’s when a lot of extra fuel bills are there. We decided, ‘Let’s do our gift basket in February and frame it around Valentine’s Day.’ That’s why we call it Have a Heart.”

The boxes contain six shelf-stable meals, a $35 Meijer gift card and a valentine made by Central Michigan University student volunteers during Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Each box is worth about $50.

Upton said the $7,500 program funds all come from donations from community groups, organizations and individuals.

“Every year, we’ve done this; we’ve received the money from the public,” Upton said. “None of the money is from our grants.”

Even though the program is able to donate many, a lot of seniors that need the boxes don't receive them. Guy Meiss, a board member for Friends of Isabella Seniors, said he and the rest of his board are talking about ways for more seniors to get these boxes.

“There are far more than 150 seniors that we would like to help with this program, but that’s sort of the limit of this budget," he said. "These are folks who have been cleared to reach a certain maximum level of income. Currently, the budget allows for 150 boxes, give or take. The need is far greater than that.”

Friends of Isabella Seniors is the group responsible for fundraising for the Isabella County Commission on Aging. They are one of many organizations, like the CMU Volunteer Center, who assist with Have a Heart.


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