Proposed federal budget cuts won't affect Meals on Wheels of Horry County

Proposed federal budget cuts won't affect Meals on Wheels of Horry County

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Proposed federal budget cuts to Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Program, which helps fund Meals on Wheels programs, won't cause senior citizens in Horry County to go hungry.

Roughly 60 volunteers prepare and deliver home-cooked, nutritious meals to about 80 senior citizens Monday through Friday as part of Horry County's Meals on Wheels initiative.

"We chose when this was started not to ask for government assistance and not to ask for any outside assistance, United Way, anything," said Kathy Edens, executive director of Meals on Wheels. "We felt that if this was truly God's mission that he would provide and he has."

When providing those meals to people who are homebound, alone or unable to cook for themselves, the volunteers are giving them more than food.

"Just seeing those people and chatting with them for a few moments, it makes all the world of difference to them," Edens said.

While the companionship is free, the food and everything needed to pull off cooking and delivering those meals isn't. Edens estimates it costs about $4,000 per month.

According to Edens, the organization runs on donations from individuals, churches like Carolina Forest Community Church, and organizations such as the Myrtle Beach Coin Club, the Myrtle Beach Chevrolet Club and the homeowners association at The Farm in Carolina Forest.

"Places that I would never have thought would support a charity step forward and they have been amazing," she said.

Edens added she tries to save costs wherever she can, such as buying food in bulk, so that the money goes straight to the plates.

"Ninety-five percent of every dollar that comes in goes right back to feed our people," she said.

According to Edens, volunteers use their own cars and gasoline to deliver the meals to seniors' homes. She said people running the program often work from home and purchase their own supplies.

While seniors living in Horry County from Murrells Inlet to Little River will keep getting the meals and the camaraderie they need from Meals on Wheels no matter what happens to the federal budget, Edens is worried about those elsewhere.

"Meals on Wheels provides more than just a meal and I don't know if anybody in Congress or the president understands that," Edens said. "They go out and check on these people. They provide support."

She said she thinks the larger Meals on Wheels organizations would be hit the hardest.

"It's heartbreaking to think there are people who will go without because these meals are cut," Edens said. "I pray that part doesn't go through."

As for other proposed budget cuts, such as those to the Department of Transportation's TIGER Grants program, which has provided about $500 million or more since its founding in 2009 for a variety of transportation projects, SCDOT Commissioner Mike Wooten said it's his understanding that any current TIGER grants will not be rescinded.

He said the program will be eliminated going forward.

Horry County was awarded nearly $10 million in 2016 through a TIGER grant for RJ Corman to fix up the railway.

RJ Corman representatives have said the company wants to update the rail line so it can handle trains with heavier loads and also higher speeds.

Additionally, an Interstate 95 project in Dillon County to separate local traffic from I-95 traffic received $10 million dollars from a TIGER Grant in 2009.

Wooten said grants are not critical, but instead, they're a bonus that can help fund transportation projects. He added if spending has to be cut, that's a good place to start.

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