The Community Center held a large crowd on Saturday evening as members of the community gathered together to support the First Annual Feed a Senior fish fry. The event was hosted by County Judge Jerry Holmes and Arkansas Senator Missy Irvin with all proceeds to benefit the Waychoff Senior Center, Meals on Wheels program. Guests in attendance were Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Senator John Boozman and U.S. Representative Rick Crawford.
The local Meals on Wheels program operates on a budget of approximately $125,000.00 each year, funded by state and government sources, county and city funds, fundraising and donations. The National Council on aging statistics shows that in 2014, 10.2 million older Americans faced the threat of hunger, representing 15.8% of adults over age sixty in the U.S., and that food insecurity was highest within those with disabilities and Seniors living in the southern states, including Arkansas. Nationally one in six seniors struggle with hunger.
Statistics provided by Meals on Wheels America for 2017 show that Meals on Wheels served 3, 550,939 meals in Arkansas. The total cost of the nutrition program for the year was $18,690,727 with only $5,929,007 covered by Federal funding or 32% of the total cost.
Irvin co-host of the event introduced guest speaker Rutledge, a native of Batesville, who first expressed pleasure at being back in Heber Springs and then what her values and beliefs are. Rutledge states " I believe in going after the criminals, con artists and the overreach of Federal Government". She spoke about shutting down the telephone scam artists who largely prey upon the elderly, the drug companies that falsely advertise medications creating a prescription drug epidemic across the state of Arkansas and about stopping any type of government overreach. The state of Arkansas has levied lawsuits against three drug companies for deceptive advertising.
Holmes introduced Hutchinson as the next speaker. He spoke about his day spent in Heber Springs with his first stop being a visit to Heber Springs High School where he visited classrooms and spoke to the students about computer coding. He praised the students for their skills and said they are sharp and excited and that gives hope for the future. He next went to the Community School of Heber Springs for a tour of the facility. The Community School provides specialized services for developmentally delayed infants, children, and adults. Hutchinson also spoke at a Single Parent Scholarship Presentation and help present the scholarships designed to help young single mothers continue their education. Additionally, he made a stop at The Call, an organization that brings local churches and foster parents together to improve the lives of children.
Hutchinson states that the most important part of being a public official is doing what you say you are going to do. He said the three things he said he was going to do were, lower the income tax rate by 100 million dollars, put computer coding in every High School in Arkansas and he was going to be the job Governor. He states that, "Arkansas now is leading the Nation in computer science education", that the income tax has been reduced by the largest amount in Arkansas history and the state now has the lowest unemployment rate in Arkansas history.
Hutchinson, from Northwest Arkansas spoke of the importance of the Meals on Wheels Program for our Senior citizens and states, "I'm impressed by the community spirit here in Heber Springs," it addresses problems and challenges and doesn't rely on what the government does but takes charge of the community and does things on its own.
As part of the evenings fundraising effort, an auction was held. Items auctioned were 1/2 a bag of money and a donated handmade quilt. The highest bidder on both items was Josh Johnston who is running for County Sheriff. Providing musical entertainment for the event were Bill and Kathy Brown, owners of the Ozark Country Market. In attendance were Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood, Representative Josh Miller, Land Commissioner John Thurston, Cleburne County Sheriff Chris Brown, Representative John Payton, and numerous other candidates for state and local positions. The fish was prepared by the crew from Affordable Air, Greg Hutto, three Quorum Court members, among others. Sponsors were 101.9 The Lake, Cowboy Chevrolet and Red River Dodge.