Alfred and Marlene Rangnow have helped organize daily gatherings for senior citizens since the Cuero Senior Citizens Center closed in May. Meals are paid for by the attendees or the Rangnows. Those attending also play dominos or bingo depending on the day. The gatherings draw between six and 12 seniors each day.

• MONDAY - American Legion

• TUESDAY - Calvary Baptist Church

• WEDNESDAY - American Legion (Bingo with Cuero Nursing and Rehab)

• THURSDAY - Parkside Clinic/American Legion (alternate)

• FRIDAY - Whispering Oaks Nursing Center/Mission Nursing and Rehab (alternate)

To assist with or sponsor a daily meeting, call Marlene Rangnow at 361-277-6014.

To assist the Community Action Committee of Victoria in providing meals for the homebound, contact Vicki Smith at 361-578-2989. The Community Action Committee is a nonprofit organization.

CUERO - The elderly in DeWitt County may no longer have a central gathering place, but the program once run from the senior citizens center providing meals to homebound residents was not affected by its closure.

The Cuero Senior Citizens Center closed in May because it was underused, said Cindy Cornish, director of the Golden Crescent Area Agency on Aging.

"Attendance was averaging three to four people on most days; therefore, it was not economically feasible to keep it open," Cornish said.

Cornish emphasized that meals to homebound seniors continued.

Homebound meals are provided in DeWitt County by a contract vendor, Community Action Committee, Cornish said.

Vicki Smith, executive director of the Community Action Committee of Victoria said her organization serves 31 homebound clients in DeWitt County with about 7,248 meals per year under the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Dollars and sense

Although housed in a city-owned building on the outskirts of the city park, the senior citizens center was neither a city- nor county-run operation, though the county contributed some funding.

The DeWitt County Senior Citizens Association was formed to contract the services of the Area Agency on Aging and the Golden Crescent Senior Citizens Nutrition Program and have a local board in control of decision making, explained DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler.

"The original bylaws charge the corporation with the mission of promoting the interests and needs of the senior citizens of DeWitt County. It originally operated on membership donations," Fowler said.

In recent years, the county also contributed about $7,000 annually to the program.

The cost of keeping the center operating was estimated at $56,000 for the next fiscal year, said Fowler.

The city of Cuero offered to split that cost with the county, said Cuero City Manager Raymie Zella.

"The commissioners court voted not to fund this but to help with the Meals on Wheels," Zella said.

Keeping the center open strictly for the social needs of a few citizens would not be fiscally responsible, said Fowler.

"From the county's perspective, half of $56,000 annually to serve a meal to an average of 10 people per day when the participants were not selected by need, but were there to attend for social purposes, was not economically feasible considering all of the critical infrastructure needs we have at this time," said the county judge.

Changing of the guard

Until February of this year, the Cuero Senior Citizens Center was run by Joyce Eichhorn, who formed the county senior citizens association and was the vendor for the Area Agency on Aging.

"She and her family devoted years of their time and, as we understand, a significant amount of their personal financial resources to serve seniors who needed meals in DeWitt County," Cornish said in praise of Eichhorn.

A portion of the meals she provided were funded by the Area Agency on Aging, which covered about 40 percent of the total resources needed to run the program.

However, Eichhorn's contract was terminated over compliance issues related to insurance and the Community Action Committee took over the homebound meals portion of the operation, Cornish said.

"There was a big financial challenge to address the resource gap previously filled by the Eichhorn family," Cornish said. "Local support continues to be critical to the sustainability of the service."

Offers to help

Fowler said two Cuero nursing homes have offered to be a center for seniors to congregate on a regular basis for both a meal and social activities.

"If an economical and efficient solution which solves a real need can be presented to the commissioners court, then the matter can be considered in the future," Fowler said.

"But for now, the commissioners court is thankful for the offers made by the two nursing homes which seem to meet the nutritional needs of the low number of senior citizens desiring to congregate for lunch and enjoy each other's company."