IN THE NEWS: Program delivers hot meals to needy

David A. Schwartz, Staff Writer

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Oct 1, 2013

The Great Recession may be over but many persons are struggling financially in an economy that has not recovered.

Social service agencies like the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service, which serves people in Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach, are experiencing a growing demand for their services. The agency recently implemented the Meals on Wheels program to deliver hot meals to individual homes.

There are 16 persons in the program, with about half paying nothing and half paying $7 per meal, said Danielle Hartman, Jewish Family Service president and CEO. Thirteen persons also receive other services from the agency, she said.

The Jewish Family Service program can serve a minimum of 50 people and up to 100, depending on the subsidy required, Hartman said. "The need is greater than what we can provide for."

The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County provides one-third of the funding for the Meals on Wheels program, while two-thirds comes from private funding, Hartman said.

Meals on Wheels fills a void for people who can't leave their home and need a hot meal, said Matthew C. Levin, Federation president and CEO. "This is something that has to grow. There are so many more [persons] in need."

The need for Ruth Rales' Meals on Wheels program has been compounded by cuts in Palm Beach County's Meals on Wheels program due to sequestration (automatic cuts to the federal budget that affect outlays to programs), Hartman said. Several hundred persons are on the County's Meals on Wheels waiting list, she said.

Donna Bankoff receives seven hot meals a week from the Ruth Rales program.

"If the Meals on Wheels person didn't come and bring me something to eat, I would have nothing to eat," said Bankoff, 58, of West Boca Raton who is recuperating from an illness

Volunteer Samuel Ron, 89, of Delray Beach delivers the meals to Bankoff and others every week. "This is the most rewarding job I can do," said Ron, a Holocaust survivor. "It's the best mitzvah I can make in my life."

The Jewish Association for Residential Care (JARC) prepares the hot meals for the Ruth Rales program in its 2,000-square-foot, commercial, Glatt kosher kitchen in West Boca Raton.

JARC and Ruth Rales are safety-net agencies that help the "frail and fragile," said Debra Hallow, JARC executive director. Her agency trains about 30 individuals in its culinary program and another 150 persons come daily for training, she said. "This is one of the foremost employment programs our community is engaged in.

"Our mission is to support adults with disabilities and train them to make a living," Hallow said. The JARC program "empowers them to assist others. They're very proud of what they are doing. They know they are helping people."

Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service (JFS) offers help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Funding is provided by private and corporate support, grants, special events and individuals who reach thousands in need each year. For more information, contact (561) 852-3333 or visit www.ruthralesjfs.org.

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