As coordinator of the local Meals on Wheels program, Kim Prescott doesn't like what she sees -- elderly people living in abject poverty and government budget cuts eliminating services that they need.
So Prescott, who writes songs under the name Haden Sammons, recently used her talent to develop a YouTube video titled "The Forgotten One." She hopes it will draw attention to the hundreds of thousands of dollars being cut from food programs for the elderly.
"It just breaks my heart and I can't even imagine telling these people they can't get any more meals," said Prescott, who delivered food to clients several days this week. "I had to do something to let people know what is happening."
Prescott is co-coordinator of the local chapter of the National Songwriters Association. She wrote the song featured on the video a few years ago, but it sat dormant
until the recent project. She combined the music with photos, testimonies and statistics about how seniors are being affected by the federal sequestration, which requires across-the-board budget cuts for all federal programs.
Prescott presented the video to a group of volunteers at Aflac this week, and she hopes social service agencies in Washington will take notice and use it to advocate for the elderly. Her daughter, Tiffany Evans, recently posted the YouTube video on Facebook and Twitter. Prescott hopes it will inspire people to donate money, organize fundraisers, volunteer and contact their congressional represents about budget cuts affecting the elderly.
In one verse of the song, Prescott describes a 90-year-old woman sitting alone at home. "She has a family somewhere out there but she never sees them -- guess they don't care," the lyrics say. "She's the forgotten one -- she's been thrown away. Can you tell me if someone's seen her today?"
Another verse tells the story of an 86-year-old widower whose friends all disappear. "I heard he fell the other day and there was no one around. He laid there for hours before he was found. He's the forgotten one -- he's been thrown away. Can you tell me if someone's seen him today?"
At the end of the video, there's the voice of Virgil Thompson, a Phenix City Christian media personality. He says senior citizens are living on social security based on salaries from 30 to 40 years ago. Many are on fixed incomes of $500 to $600 a month, and are having to choose between food and medication. "There really is no excuse for the wealthiest nation in the world to have any elderly people going without food," he says. "We owe these people. They are the ones that raised us, taught us our morals, turned us into who we are today and made the great sacrifice to protect this country in our greatest time of need. How can we turn our backs on them? They are part of what is called the greatest generation."
DSC serves seniors and disabled people in several counties, providing meals and other services. The Meals on Wheels program delivers lunch to seniors who live at home five days a week. The DSC also provides meals for clients at four senior centers that it operates in Harris, Randolph, Stewart and Clay counties.
Executive Director James Tucker said the organization will lose $33,762 for meals at the four centers and $50,400 for Meals on Wheels from now until the end of the year. He said he isn't surprised that Prescott would want to help. He said she's a "talented and tender-hearted" employee who has been working for the organization 15 years. And she has really gotten to know the clients. "We've got a tremendous amount of budget cuts because of sequestration and everything else going on with the government right now, and her heart just led her to that song," he said.
Tucker said he really appreciates Prescott's willingness to spread awareness about a problem the entire community should be concerned about. He said the budget for 2013/2014 was already reduced by 13 percent, and the recent cuts will only make the situation worse.
In October, there were 258 people on the waiting list for home-delivered meals, and that's before the cuts, he said. "We're looking at closing our senior centers one day a week, reducing hours, and cutting 51 home delivery meals a day," he said. "We are still serving clients, but there are many, many more out there that we can't serve."
Tiffany Ingram, director of the River Valley Area Agency on Aging, said the agency contracts with DSC and other organizations for the senior services. They include home- and community-based programs such as Meals on Wheels, senior centers, homemaker services and personal care support. Most of the services are designed to help people stay in their homes and not have to go to a nursing home.
In total, local cuts in the Chattahoochee Valley for senior services will amount to over $256,000 this year, almost half of the money for meals, Ingram said. The reductions started in October and must be implemented by December 31. She said clients affected will receive a 30-day notice if services are eliminated. Ingram said the cuts are a major blow to the community, which already has a waiting list of 1,500 people for meal programs. In Georgia, 3 million meals are being cut, affecting 18,000 elderly people, according to the video. "Even with attrition and closing centers one day a week it will be tough to make that budget work," Ingram said. "It's just the worst cut that we've ever had. It's really depressing right now."
Prescott said she hopes the video will make a difference, especially the words to the song. "I knew when I wrote them it wasn't for a commercial purpose," she said. "Sometimes you just have to write because it's on your heart."