Homemade bread and potatoes peeled by hand might be included in a hot meal delivered to about 300 homebound seniors daily by volunteers in Eau Claire County.

Donations from those seniors make up most of the funding for the Meals on Wheels program, according to officials with the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Eau Claire County.

“These participants are often on fixed incomes and are battling the rising cost of living,” according to a sponsorship letter. “Lately we are seeing a significant decrease in participant donations, which greatly impacts the program, (and) also says our homebound senior citizens need more help”

To give them that help, the ADRC has launched March 4 Meals, a new fundraiser for the Meals on Wheels program and its participants. For a one-time donation of $500, a business, individual or organization can sponsor one day of meals for the more tht 300 participants in the program.

Meals are delivered Monday through Friday, so fundraiser organizers are hoping to find sponsors for the 21 weekdays in March.

“That means that the participants do not have to pay for those meals that day,” according to the fundraiser sponsorship letter. “If we can get enough sponsors to take all 21 service days in March, those (seniors) can have one full month of free meals.”

The total cost of each meal is $8.80, according to the ADRC website. The suggested donation from diners is $3.75. While the majority of meal recipients donate something, no one over age 60 who qualifies for the meal program will be denied based on inability to donate.

“We view Meals on Wheels as an extremely important program,” said Kaylynn Stahlbusch, outreach coordinator for the ADRC. “It’s not just a home-delivery meal program. What makes our program special is that it is a daily check. When the volunteer goes up to the door, he or she is checking on the person receiving the meal.”

Ken King knows that all to well. He and his wife, Carlotta, volunteer to deliver meals when needed.

“You can see the need is there,” said King, who knows folks living in the Cleghorn are who receive Meals on Wheels. “We think it’s a good program.”

For that reason, the Cleghorn Lions Club has stepped up to sponsor one of the 21 days of meals in March.

“Our club is in Eau Claire County, and we support the community and its needs,” said King, club secretary. “We felt this was one of them.”

Angela Hite, regional director of community relations for Dove Healthcare, couldn’t agree more, and she proposed involvement in March 4 Meals to her employer.

“It was really an easy sell because I knew what the program was doing for people,” said Hite, whose mother-in-law benefited from Meals on wheels in Eau Claire County for a short time after surgery and whose mother is a volunteer for Meals on Wheels in Barron County.

“My mom feels good about bringing people a nutritious meal, but her favorite part is seeing (the recipients) smile,” Hite said. “That is something we want to be part of.”

Knowing that $500 isn’t a small chunk of change, donations of any size will be gladly accepted, said Stahlbusch, noting four of the 21 days have been spoken for.

Donations of any size go “directly back into providing nutritious meals — made from scratch in our kitchen in Fall Creek — for our homebound seniors in Eau Claire County,” said Becky Hinzmann, ADRC nutrition supervisor.

In fall 2018, the ADRC surveyed Meals on Wheels recipients, and Hinzmann shared some of the results:

• 35.5 percent of those surveyed said their daily meal from Meals on Wheels provides them with half of their daily food intake.

• 10.8 percent said that meal provides them with more than two-thirds of their daily food intake.

• When asked if the Meals on Wheels volunteer was the only person the recipient saw on most days, 33.1 percent said yes.

Contact: 715-830-5838, christena.obrien@ecpc.com, @CTOBrien on Twitter