Pain At The Pump: Meals On Wheels - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/31/08-Tyler

Pain At The Pump: Meals On Wheels

Gas prices hit a new record Sunday night.   The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded, now $3.28. In Texas, it's at $3.20 a gallon, which is also a record. One East Texas organization couldn't be feeling the sting any more--and their name says it all--"Meals On Wheels." KLTV 7's Tracy Watler shows us how painful, almost unbelievable, the nonprofit's bill is, just for gas.

Every Friday, 77-year-old Cecil Bledshoe loads up his car and drives about 16 miles, round trip, helping deliver food to senior citizens in need.  He's one of more than a thousand Meals On Wheels volunteers, who give up their own time, car, and gasoline.

"You can't help but feel the pain at the pump in fact, my station just went up about 9 cents," Cecil explains.

And with gas prices going up, up and up, he's having to cut back.

"And also do a little walking too," Cecil laughs. "You notice the gas."

But he's not letting high gas prices keep him from doing what he's done for the past ten years now.  And that's a good thing, too, because Meals On Wheels relies on volunteers like Cecil.

"Last year volunteers saved us over a $100,000 in costs of operating vehicles," explains Mike Powell, Executive Director of Meals On Wheels Of East Texas 

With 47 vans loaded up and ready to go to ten East Texas counties each day, Meals on Wheels spends $30-40,000 thousand a month solely on gas.

"That's 360-thousand dollars a year just for gasoline so that's tremendous cost to our budget, and if costs continue go up it's going to be a real problem for us," Powell adds.

Already, they've had volunteers quit because they simply can't afford the extra gas

"It's a compounded problem at this point because we're seeing it affect our volunteers in how much volunteerism we have and secondly we're seeing it affects us in our budget," he says.

And now, for the first time in the nonprofit's history, they have a waiting list, having to turn away new clients.

"And that's a direct result of pain at the pump....it's very painful at this point," Powell adds.

But as long as Cecil's behind the wheel, Meals On Wheels can rest assured no matter how high prices soar, the seniors on his route will get a hot meal to eat.  

"Even if it's 4-dollars a gallon!" Cecil says. "When you see that face and the smile on their face, the way they light up, it's just something to see, it's worth it, I think it's worth it!"

The nonprofit says they're also feeling pain when it comes to food prices. Their wholesale costs for half pints of milk have gone up from 19 cents to 31 cents.

We still want to hear how high gas prices are effecting you and your lives. On our homepage, click on the Pain At The Pump icon. There, you can tell us about the adjustments you're making to fill your tank. You can also click on "KLTV Pump Patrol", on the same page, and see where East Texans are paying the least for gasoline.

Tracy Watler, Reporting tracy@kltv.com

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