The Sentinel visited with Millie Oram, Director of the Eureka County Senior Centers when she was in Crescent Valley on Aug. 13 doing food distribution. The Sentinel asked Oram how long the food distribution program has been happening. Oram and volunteers drove up from Eureka with a van full of commodities to share with low income individuals and families. Senior Center employees and volunteers separated onions and potatoes and other foods into individual bags for single recipients up to much larger families while Oram sat at a desk in the office with the paperwork that recipients sign each month to receive their distribution.
As to how long the program has been underway in Eureka County, Oram said, “Well, I’ve been here 22 years and it’s been going on before I came.”
Asked how the program got started, Oram said, “Well, I think it was back when the government was noticing there was a lot of families or kids that weren’t eating right and everything else; and so they started the government thing: you know commodities and stuff like that; and then the Food Bank got involved; and the Food Bank is mostly donations.”
While the Senior Center administers the program, Oram explained, “It’s a separate organization. It’s the Northern Nevada Food Bank which is the Food Bank of Northern Nevada out of Wells. And what it is is they get donations from stores and stuff and then they distribute it to the senior centers or churches or whatever they distribute.”
Oram explained the way it works in Eureka County is people sign up for commodities and qualify according to income guidelines that depend on the family size. “Like for one person they can’t make over $1,470, to make it low income per month and then it goes up from there for bigger families.”
Asked how the food distribution happens every month, Oram said, “Well, every month the commodity person” tells Oram what’s available and sends her “a paper asking how many people we have and then they send me the commodities and I distribute them.
Asked if there’s enough storage for the food items, Oram said, “It’s tight, but we keep them moving and then I come up to CV the last Thursday for that and then the Food Bank of Northern Nevada donates produce, whatever they get: produce or whatever; then we get that the first of the month and then we distribute it on that first Friday of the month” in Eureka “and then Crescent Valley the first Monday; and it’s produce and I never know what they’re bringing until they bring it on that one.”
Asked how many people in the county are served and whether Oram has seen the numbers change, she said, “It goes up and down. I mean when the mine shut down we seen a few more because of their income and everything else. I would say the southern part, there’s maybe 36 families here” and “probably 40 in Crescent Valley.” Oram said the fluctuation seems to reflect people’s incomes related to the “mines and the work” but the numbers are “pretty steady” every month.
Oram said she also sees a lot of people getting produce at the Eureka Farmer’s market which she understands is growing in vendors under the sponsorship of the UNR Cooperative Extension.
Oram and the Senior Center do more than just Food Bank in helping the people of Eureka. She also helps people apply for welfare. In addition, the “Senior Center has the meals for seniors 60 and over Monday through Friday; then we have Meals on Wheels that serves seniors.” Oram said, non-seniors experiencing a medical crisis who can get a statement from a doctor saying they cannot cook can also get Meals on Wheels service, but in that case “the County pays for that” out of the Indigent Fund.
Oram said one woman who’s in a wheelchair “and her one arm she can’t use” receives such assistnace.
In addition, Oram oversees “energy assistance for low income families to help with propane electricity. You fill out those forms. We send them to Carson. Then we have the welfare application and then we have to send it to Ely.” Welfare applications submitted by Crescent Valley people go to Elko.
“And then we do CSBG, Community Service Block Grant, and it helps with people that are low income like to help with rent for one time: it’s rent, electricity or propane and stuff like that.”
Asked how many people ask for CSBG assistance, Oram said, “We have about ten over the course of the year that use that.” She said it helps so that people can “be able to pay for their medicine and not worry about ‘Oh, can I pay my electricity or pay my rent?’ for one time; so we can help them.”
Asked how doing all the social services work makes her feel, Oram said, “Good, but sad that there’s so many that really need it because of no work.” She feels the programs are “running pretty good” and said Eurekans who want to help should “just help other people. You know, if you see a senior that needs help, visit them or something. I know especially the homebound they don’t see anybody except when my driver goes and delivers.”
Oram noted that groups like the 4H do help over the Holidays when “they’ll do Christmas cookies or baskets of fruit for the seniors and all that; but there’s not too much; I mean there’s a lot of families that have seniors there. They do visit them.” She encouraged people in Eureka County to consider volunteering and she is happy to help coordinate volunteers interested in helping. “Even just to stay and read to a senior or visit with them for a little while. Yeah, just have them come see me and we can do stuff.”
People who received commodities that Thursday left with fresh brussel sprouts, lettuce, and other food items that stretch low income families’ food stores and expressed their appreciation for the program. “I know it helps me feed me and my family every month and I really appreciate it,” one woman told the Sentinel as she carried her bag of welcome surprises to her car.