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Boot drive to provide meals to seniors

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry International Association of Fire Fighters Warren Local No. 1835 member Jeremy Rulander thanks a motorist Friday for contributing to the union’s annual Boot Drive. Proceeds of this yearás drive will provide meals for seniors in Warren and Forest counties.

Dollars in the boot help people in the community.

The Warren Fire Fighters Union Local No. 1835 held its annual Boot Drive Friday at Pennsylvania Avenue and Liberty Street in Warren.

Firefighters and Experience Inc. personnel held the boots for any motorists and pedestrians who wanted to make donations, raising over $1,600 in the first two hours.

The dollars will go to Experience Inc. and will be used to provide meals to seniors in Warren and Forest counties.

The union selects a worthy local cause for each year’s drive.

“We like to donate to different local charities,” Union President Joe Rehe said. “In conjunction with Experience Inc., we are collecting money for the seniors in Warren and Forest counties.”

Often, children are the beneficiaries of the event, but meals for seniors made sense this year.

With COVID-19 impacting individuals and organizations and cutting into senior centers’ ability to provide meals in a congregate setting, coupled with the county’s high senior population, making sure seniors have access to food is a priority, according to Rehe.

“We have seen an increase in the need for meals since COVID,” Experience Inc. Care Manager Jessica Sleeman said. Boot Drive dollars will help make “sure our seniors are getting meals.”

Those meals will be provided through the five senior centers and directly through the In-Home Meals program. Meals are available “to anyone over 60 that has a need,” Sleeman said. They are not strictly limited on the bases of income eligibility.

Experience Inc.’s ability to provide meals is limited by the money supply.

“It’s a grant-funded program,” Experience Inc. Assessor Sandra Howard said. “When the money runs out, we don’t serve any meals.”

The Boot Drive funding “allows more people in the community to be served,” Sleeman said.

ErieBank provided the financial services for the union – counting and depositing all of the dollars.

The union will make a formal presentation to Experience Inc.

“People have been very supportive of this venture,” Chief Rodney Wren said.

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