Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Tue, May 8 2012 at 5:05 PM, Updated: Tue, May 8 2012 at 5:20 PM
Demand for senior meals programs in Klamath County has risen by 50% over the past three years - but future funding for those programs is in jeopardy.
Harry Mauch is one of about 270 people that rely on daily meals through the Klamath Basin Senior Center...
"I can't cook anymore - I used to like to cook."
Senior Center Executive Director Marc Kane notes that the importance goes beyond just providing a meal, as many of the seniors live alone...
"We might be the only person they see in a given day. And so to some extent, it's a public safety program. Somebody's checking on them."
A tight budget forced Klamath County to reduce funding for the program last year. So, the Klamath Falls city council stepped in to match the county's $35,000 funding - but City Manager Rick Whitlock notes that it's not an annual offer...
"The city budget is also tight, and the council did express a concern that there needed to be a long term plan for sustainability of this program."
The senior center is also pursuing other funding sources - but Executive Director Kane points out that no one has any money...
"Churches and the other social organizations are really working to capacity right now. This is a really bad economy."
The can't afford more paid staff, so volunteers like Roland Burkhead are a key element of the program...
"I know they look forward to seeing us and having that meal, so it makes you feel good that you can serve them in that way."
And Harry Mauch appreciates their efforts...
"To have somebody packing it to me, how do you beat anything like that?"
So, Harry can have his lunch this year. Next year, there are no guarantees.
The Klamath Basin Senior Citizens Center expects to serve about 90 thousand meals to seniors over the next year.
The half-million dollar program is run through a mix of state, federal, and local funding.
KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's. He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.
Lyle's job history is quite colorful. He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand. A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer. In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.
Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience. "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain. Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".
When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.