June 30, 2013

Letters to the editor: Sequester hurts Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels came to Maine in June 1971, when Meals for Me Inc. in Bangor served its first meals after an uphill three-year process of planning and selling.

click image to enlarge

Volunteer Tom O’Connor pulls prepared holiday meals from the oven, where they were heated before being delivered to Meals on Wheels recipients in southern Maine in 2011. A minister who helped bring the program to Maine says he fears for its future.

2011 File Photo/John Ewing

No one had heard of Meals on Wheels, and convincing Mainers was a hard sell. We began with a demonstration grant under Title III of the Older Americans Act.

Because of the difficulty of getting the program off the ground, our goals were modest. We hoped to serve 25 meals a day in the first months and build the program to 75 meals a day by the end of the first year.

We had six community VISTA volunteers canvass Bangor; our plan was based on their reports. We served almost 80 meals a day the first week, due in large part to the awareness created by the VISTA volunteers.

We were told by two public health nurses on the board that we must immediately begin delivering home meals.

We began delivering to homebound seniors after three months, and by the end of the first year we were delivering almost 100 meals a day, five days a week, including all Monday holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The only day we were closed was New Year's Day.

During the second year of operation, funding was switched to Title VII of the Older Americans Act. Title VII said only 10 percent of meals could be served in a congregate setting. We successfully argued for a waiver of that rule.

Then President Nixon impounded the money for Title VII. Sen. Bill Hathaway fought successfully to get the funds released before we had to shut down. The Republicans have been trying to stop Meals on Wheels ever since. Their latest tactic is called sequestration.

I am angry about what is happening to Meals on Wheels. It is not the program I started 40-plus years ago. I fear it will disappear completely unless there is concerted grass-roots action to support it.

The Rev. Carleton Gunn


Registration fee excludes mainstay of pride parade

The Southern Maine Gay Pride Parade in Portland has always been a wonderful celebration of diversity and acceptance. For years I've had the thrill and honor of riding my Harley with the Dykes on Bikes at the front of the parade.

Women ride from all over the state to lead the parade, rev their engines and wave to all the spectators cheering them on in a spectacular demonstration of gay pride and free speech.

But at the June 15 parade, everything changed when we were turned away by parade organizer Dave Nadeau. He told us that because we hadn't registered and paid the $100 fee, we weren't wanted in the parade.

I tried to reason with him and remind him that all across America, Dykes on Bikes lead gay pride parades. I tried to explain that we're not an official organization; we don't have membership cards, and we don't have an official spokesperson. We've never registered before and we've always led the parade.

I told him that by excluding us he was going against the spirit of gay pride. Since the beginning of the gay pride movement, it's been drag queens and strong, brazen lesbians on bikes who have been the most visible and fearless. To exclude us over something as trivial and shallow as an entry fee is an embarrassment and a travesty.

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