Inclement weather has had a profound effect on area residents, but none more than the seniors and homebound who depend on Meals-on-Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties to provide them with a hot meal each day.

Amy Jackson, director of development for the nonprofit organization, noted that the agency had closed its services from Tuesday through Friday, Feb. 1-4, but full service would resume Monday, Feb. 7.

“We’ve sought to try to make the very best decisions for all concerned,” she said. “We’ve been concerned for the safety of our volunteers and staff – the main roads were relatively clear, but it was the rural roads and neighborhoods and sidewalks we had to worry about, and we just had no guarantees and no way to know how accessible an area would be.”

Jackson said volunteers for Meals on Wheels drive about 95 percent of the routes, which cover a 1,700 square mile, two-county area, with meals delivered to more than 1,800 clients daily.

“During the bad weather, we spent the first two days making care calls to all of our clients just to make sure they were all right, and had food and heat,” Jackson said. “Thankfully, most of them had relatives that lived close to them, and also we’re thankful that communities were aware of the homebound in their areas.”

Another challenge Meals-on-Wheels faced was the problem in getting food because Valley Services, which specializes in senior meals and provides the food for the agency, had to close its kitchen as a result of the inclement weather. That also meant Meals-on-Wheels’ operations in the Austin and San Antonio areas had to suspend service.

Jackson noted that the new Meals-on-Wheels kitchen, which will be located at the railhead just south of Midlothian will provide the nonprofit organization with greater flexibility to meet the needs of its clients.

“Sometimes bad weather necessitates Valley Services in Fort Worth having to close its kitchen, but sometimes weather may not be as severe here in Johnson and Ellis counties as it is in Fort Worth so with our own kitchen, our services can continue on and give us much more flexibility to serve our clients,” she said.

The organization is continuing to seek to raise funds for the new facility; the target date to begin construction has been moved back to the fall 2012.

“We already have construction plans and a design,” she said. “We are hoping that, during this economy, although corporations are not as able to donate funds, they could give in-kind construction products and materials.”

She said moving the target date back has given the organization time to re-evaluate its needs and to design a building even more suitable for future expansion.

“We had planned a 13,000-15,000 square feet structure originally, but now we’re looking at a 25,000 square feet building, and will start out occupying a portion of it, giving us room to expand,” Jackson said. “We will have so much more flexibility when we get our own kitchen, so that we can continue to help keep folks fed and meet the needs of our communities.”

She added that Meals-on-Wheels has raised $1 million of the $5 million needed to build the facility.

For further information or to make a contribution to Meals-on-Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties, call 817-558-2840 in Johnson County, or 972-351-9943 in Ellis County, or visit the website at www.servingthechildrenofyesterday.org.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.