PORT TOWNSEND — Dave Thomas is a proud man. He served in the U.S. Army, helped run a small business and worked as a crane operator for the Port Townsend Paper Corp.
Thomas, 85, now lives alone after his wife died a few years ago.
He occasionally has trouble cooking for himself because it’s difficult to straighten the fingers on his left hand.
When Congressman Derek Kilmer showed up on his doorstep Thursday, he brought prepared food in a large paper bag, part of the senior nutrition program provided by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP).
“It means a lot to me and a lot of other people,” Thomas told Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor. “Sometimes I give some, sometimes I eat some. It all helps, you know?”
Kilmer visited several households for the Meals on Wheels program, which could be forced to find an alternative source of funding if President Donald Trump’s 2021 budget proposal becomes law.
Trump has proposed spending cuts that would eliminate the Community Services Block Grant, the Community Development Block Grant and the Social Services Block Grant, all programs on which many Meals on Wheels programs rely, a press release from the agency said.
Additional social service programs provided by OlyCAP include heating and energy assistance, as well as home weatherization.
All are slated for elimination in Trump’s budget, Kilmer said.
Thomas, who told a story about an RV he once purchased for $50,000, said it had been sitting in his driveway for a number of years. After his wife died, he didn’t use it as much, he said.
One day, a man asked him about RV, and Thomas didn’t mind getting rid of it.
Thomas said the man offered him $5,000, just 10 percent of what he originally paid, but he sold it to the man because he figured it would be more use to him.
“I pay as I go, and I still like to help other people,” Thomas said.
The Meals on Wheels program not only delivers food, it provides safety checks and friendly visits for vulnerable seniors across the country, according to the national organization.
“Nearly 9.5 million seniors are threatened by hunger nationwide, and our country’s older adult population continues to grow exponentially,” Meals of Wheels America President Ellie Hollander said in the press release.
“In fact, with 12,000 Americans turning 60 every day, we are on track to see this population reach 118 million by 2060 — more than double when it was 10 years ago.”
Kilmer represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
He said he is working on bipartisan solutions in the House to avoid the “very negative impact” for agencies like OlyCAP and the clients they serve.
“The president’s budget is the start of the conversation, not the end of the conversation,” Kilmer said. “As a member of the House Appropriations committee, I hope the end of the conversation looks a lot better.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].