The Midlothian Senior Citizens Food Bank is approaching its deadline to meet the financial requirements of the Midlothian Independent School District or face closure. As that date draws closer, members of the Midlothian community are expressing concerns about how the school district has handled the situation.

One such community member expressed her concern during an event that was hosted by Dr. Jerome Stewart, superintendent of schools for MISD. Stewart was in the process of fielding questions about the opening of the new high school, when a parent raised her hand to tell Stewart that she didn't quite understand why the food bank has to close.

Stewart said the process which led to the district's decision was long, but had to be done in order for the district to be in compliance with the law.

“There's a law that says that we can't give stuff away,” Stewart said. “Our attorney informed us that we can't do that anymore. I argued with him and tried to get an extension for the food bank, but he wouldn't give.”

She also wanted to know if the closing of the food bank was financially motivated. Stewart said the school district has $72 million budget, and the money they would have received from the organization was not going to make or break them.

He added that although the food bank would be closing, MISD would do whatever it took to meet the needs of the seniors in the community.

“Midlothian ISD supports the goal of the Senior Citizens Food Bank (SCFB),” Stewart said. “MISD is an integral part of the Midlothian and Ellis County communities and it, too, desires that senior citizens receive assistance with their food needs.”

He said whatever decision the leaders of the SCFB make, no senior citizen, who has a need for assistance and relied on SCFB for food, will go without assistance.

Additionally, Stewart said the SCFB is currently located in the MISD Laura Jenkins Child Development Center. Other than the space allocated to SCFB, the district uses the entire building for its day care needs (licensed for up to 120 children, currently serving more than 85 children) and some office space for special education department staff.

“When the SCFB first acquired access to the space in the development center, district staff and supplies were relocated to provide the area needed for SCFB,” he said. “Today, the district continues to have a need for that space.”

“According to the district's attorney, MISD must comply with its policies for facility rental,” Stewart said. “As a part of that process, an audit of all of the district’s facility use arrangements was conducted and the results were presented to the MISD School Board. A decision was made to begin the process to bring all organizations into compliance with the district’s facility rental policy and regulations. Our school attorney said that noncompliance was not an option and that the approved compliance plan was acceptable.”

He said as a consequence of the district attorney’s directive, the SCFB was informed that it must comply with the district’s facility use policy and regulations.

“If the SCFB chooses to comply with district policies, chooses to move to another location, or chooses to close its doors, no senior citizen, who has a need for assistance and relied on SCFB for food, need go without assistance because the Midlothian community is ready to help,” Stewart said.

Manna House has agreed to provide assistance in whatever capacity it can, as well as the United Way of West Ellis County.

In a statement issued by UWWEC Executive Director Casey Ballard, UWWEC has been assisting nonprofit agencies in the Midlothian community for more than 60 years. And in light of recent events affecting senior citizens in the community, the UWWEC would like to highlight the many resources available to seniors and how members of the community can help.

“There are several agencies including Manna House, the Midlothian Senior Center and Meals-on- Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties, that have been operating and serving the needs of seniors in the Midlothian community for nearly 100 years collectively,” Ballard said.

To make a donation to assist the needs of the seniors in Midlothian, call UWWEC at 972-723-9280, Manna House at 972-775-1800 or Meals-on-Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties at 972-351-9943.

Midlothian Senior Resource Guide information, which details the services provided and how seniors that are in need can contact these agencies to start receiving benefits immediately.

Give. The UWWEC provides funding to most of the agencies listed in the Senior Resource Guide, in addition to 30 other Ellis County non-profits. All agencies mentioned are IRS compliant 501(c)3 organizations whose financial statements are reviewed, on an annual basis, by the UWWEC Board of Directors. Any donations made to the UWWEC or other organizations are qualified tax deductible contributions. In addition to monetary donations, Manna House can accept used clothing and household items (excluding mattresses) that can be given to families in need or sold in their thrift store, Heaven’s Attic. Donations can be dropped of Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10AM - 5PM. Unexpired food items are also accepted.

Volunteer. Many volunteer opportunities exist for these and other agencies. Meals on Wheels needs volunteers to deliver meals to clients in Midlothian and surrounding areas. The Midlothian Senior Center has a need for people to help serve their clients in a variety of ways and Manna House has opportunities for people to work in the food and sort donated items to be used in Heaven’s Attic. For a list of all UWWEC partner agency volunteer opportunities, please visit www.westelliscountyuw.org and click on the ‘Volunteer’ tab.

Advocate. Our senior citizen community is a strong and proud generation. If you have a senior in your life, please advocate on their behalf and make sure they are enrolled in any programs for which they qualify. There are many readily available benefits for senior citizens in Midlothian. Please help us to identify seniors in need and ensure they are receiving the support and assistance they need and deserve.

The United Way of West Ellis County, in partnership with you, improves health, prosperity and education in our community. In 2014, the UWWEC will partner with 33 non-profit agencies serving the residents of Ellis County. We provide referrals to partner agencies for those in need. For more information, visit www.westelliscountyuw.org.Midlothian Senior Resource Guide

The Midlothian Senior Citizens Center (MSCC) operates Monday through Friday. Transportation is available for seniors who live within a 5-mile radius of the center free of charge. In addition to providing a free hot meal served at 12PM M-F, the center also work with clients to ensure they are enrolled in any social service, health or prescription programs for which they qualify and assist in identifying housing if necessary. The MSCC provides tremendous health benefits including exercise, crafting, games and other socially enriching activities. For more information, please visit www.midlothianseniors.com or contact Karen Cox at 972-775-6401.

Manna House is Midlothian’s largest and longest-running social service agency and food pantry. Clients who qualify for Manna’s programs are able to visit the food pantry each month where they can “shop” for the food they need. Manna can also equip clients with any clothing or household items they may need. Manna also works with clients to ensure they are enrolled in any program for which they qualify including WIC, food stamps, disability, etc. Manna can also provide assistance through utility assistance, prescription assistance, home improvement and transportation needs. Manna has just expanded their facilities, located in downtown Midlothian, so that they are able to serve even more clients than the more than 150 families they currently serve. To find out how to receive benefits, please visit www.mannahousemidlothian.org or call Norma Belcher at 972-775-1800.

Meals on Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties delivers a daily hot meal, and in some cases, a breakfast and weekend meal to clients who are no longer able to shop and or cook for themselves. Thanks to the tremendous volunteer network that delivers the meals at 11AM M-F, they have the capacity to serve many more home-bound seniors in the Midlothian community. In addition to being served a healthy, nutritious meal, Meals on Wheels volunteers provide a system so that all clients have someone who is looking after their physical and mental well-being each day as many of these clients may not have another visitor for days and weeks at a time. To schedule a visit from a Meals on Wheels staff person, please visit www.servingthechildrenofyesterday.org

or call 972-351-9943.

*Calvary Baptist Church Food Pantry is an additional food pantry serving the residents of Midlothian. Hours of operation are are Tuesdays 10AM-2PM and Thursdays 10AM-6PM. To qualify, please bring a photo ID, proof of residency and proof of income to 1591 S. 9th Street in Midlothian. For more information, contact Gwen Pollen at 817-797-3627. *Calvary Baptist Church Food Pantry is not a UWWEC partner agency. However, they are an IRS compliant 501(c)3 and a Tier One Pantry registered with the North Texas Food Bank.

The United Way of West Ellis County, in partnership with you, improves health, prosperity and education in our community. In 2014, the UWWEC will partner with 33 non-profit agencies serving the residents of Ellis County. We provide referrals to partner agencies for those in need. For more information, visit www.westelliscountyuw.org.

Follow Melissa on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or melissa.cade@waxahachietx.com.