Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Have the feds forgotten the senior citizens?

One day, the people who make federal funding policies will be older, and retired, and facing the realities of perhaps trying to extend their independence from a nursing home, or the loneliness of having to go on after losing a life partner.

I hope that when they are, the powers that will be tend to be a little more compassionate and deeper-thinking than those current leaders have proven to be in the sudden forced changed to the Dinner Date programs in northwest Iowa.

For relatively very little money, the current senior citizen meal program could have been retained for years - in fact, if the feds had only not decided to meddle in the Northwest Aging budget, things would have been fine for some time to come.

The addled thinking goes like this. Northwest Aging had a comfortable cushion at the end of the budget year, which it happily and productively drawed upon to make up a modest deficit in the cost of providing the meals at senior centers including Storm Lake. The feds couldn't have that, and ordered the extra funds to be spent or stripped. The end result is that there's nothing left to help out the meals program, and so the cooks will get canned, and those great personalized meal programs will get replaced by some catering outfit.

Here's the kicker - some of that money that was ordered spent was invested in upgrading the very kitchens that are about to be closed as a result! Only government thinking could achieve such a foolish way to bite oneself in the butt.

Of course, the local seniors are up in arms, and frankly, I think they have every right to be.

Meals will not stop, and prices supposedly will not increase, but why put our elders to such stress? Why kick good people out of productive community jobs they have held for up to 18 years, in Storm Lake's case?

The Dinner Date program may just be a bunch of figures on a ledger to some officials and their accountants, but it is a lot more than that in reality out here in the communities.

For many of those people, it is their only nutritious meal of the day. Their only opportunity for friendships and socialization. It is no charity; it serves them in a way that maintains their independence and dignity. We should be looking at ways to improve the Senior Center's draw - including addressing the parking concerns they have had for years!

Those same senior citizens in a great many cases helped to build this town and state into all it is. They fought in a great war, brought our country back from a great depression, raised the food to feed us, sacrificed of themselves, raised and educated the great thinkers of the current generation. They don't ask a lot from us.

On paper, replacing our kitchen ladies with catering services is a practical enough plan. But in people terms, if it discourages even a handful of our seniors from taking part in those nutritious meals and socialization opportunities, it is no good deal.

Little things can mean a lot in the golden years. It's a crime that they should have to be worrying (whether with cause or otherwise) about the quality of their meals, whether their portions will be cut, whether they will lose those family-style sittings, or suffer the indignity of paper plates - but that's the talk around the Senior Center right now.

It's a shame that those lovely lunch ladies will lose the work they love, and be missed by the seniors who counted on them. It's been a great, personal system of meeting needs.

Instead of such a cut, the feds should have called for a campaign to bring more seniors to these important meal events - in efficiency of numbers, they might have made up the deficit. They should have encouraged more volunteerism to develop more Senior Center attractions. As the baby boomers age, senior programming and confidence will be ever-more vital to our communities.

If we can't change the minds of the people who make such decisions, it is up to the communities like Storm Lake now to rally to their Senior Centers and do everything possible to help them thrive despite any changes.

They are supposed to be the Golden Years, but is sure tarnishes the shine if you have to wonder where exactly your next meal is coming from.

This, my friends, is such a shame...

Justice belatedly served

Kudos to the Storm Lake Police Department. Like the Canadian mounties, it seems, they always get their man.

When a convicted Storm Lake drug peddler skipped out on his sentencing and ran to Mexico, he probably thought he was safe and forgotten after six long years had passed in hiding. Until a cop shook him from a sound sleep in a sleeping bag in California. Son of a gun, crime really doesn't pay.

That might be something for those who see potential profit in the meth business to keep in mind. You can run, but you can't hide. Those drug dollars aren't worth a life spent looking over your shoulder.

Using a little high technology, some creative networking and a lot of the kind of character that just won't give up no matter how long the odds, one wanted man is finally where he belongs tonight. A message is clearly sent. Zero tolerance in Storm Lake means zero tolerance - no matter what it takes.

Even if it takes eight years, it is good to see justice served.

Thank you, Storm Lake police, for that.